By procuring a high-end gadget and clicking continuous frames does not make one a photographer, says ace photographer Pablo Bartholomew, whose photograph of a half-buried child during the Bhopal gas tragedy became globally famous.

The Padma Shri awardee talked to HT City during his recent visit to Lucknow. We present excerpts from the conversation on the World Photography Day which was celebrated on Sunday.

“With computerisation and technology within the camera, you don’t even need to focus. We come from the times when we had to manually focus. We need to know the history of camera and films. It was a chemical and manual process. There was an optical process which was based on lights so you had to understand a lot more and then you became a photographer,” he says.


The lensman adds, “Today, you buy a DSRL camera and the next minute you become a photographer. In fact, anybody who has a smartphone in pocket is a photographer. But photography is a different thing. Like, everybody who has gone to school can write. But are they able to write interestingly? You need to specialise, train yourself and you get that flair. Most people don’t do that.”

His install shot at the Dhaka Art Summit based on Chakma DNA project.

Giving an insight to budding photographers, he says, “Just pressing a button does not give a good image. Thinking stuff is missing. The whole idea is to be able to think and work so that it has multiple layers and meanings. It brings out relatability — both artistic and thought.”

He agrees that some people have natural ability but still one should learn to improve. “One needs to learn the basics, aesthetic sense and spend time to gain experience. Also, one should explore one’s passion. Digital equipment is very costly so you need to analyze if you need such expensive things. I see that people buy to show off but that doesn’t necessarily make you a photographer,” he says.

Pablo feels that photography is an oversaturated market. “Today, one needs to work much harder. If you already have well-paid job then keep that and pursue photography as your love with which you can experiment and express yourself. By becoming a full-time photographer you do same kind of work every day for your client. Day-to-day photography can be very monotonous. Though, it can be done beautifully too! And, if you get stuck in that circle, you lose your passion,” he says.

Pablo was in Lucknow to deliver a talk at Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany where he spoke about his project that deals in art and science.

“During the Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh, I got a chance to work within a group of people. It’s looking at the DNA of a tribe called Chakma in North-East India, Bangladesh and Burma. From their saliva they extracted DNA pattern. So we have textile workers who have woven their own DNA patterns,” he says.

He explained how artistic and photographic work, based on science, can be created. “It’s a kind of marriage of art with science. I showed some of my photographs that got destroyed due to dampness or seepage of water. Interestingly, the institute’s archive department has shown interest in restoring and recreating their work,” says Pablo.

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 14:49 IST

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