Pablo Bartholomew : The Calcutta Diaries

Calcutta Diaries and notes on the Chinese Indians
Pablo Bartholomew

It was during the time when I went to work with the filmmaker Satyajit Ray on the sets of Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players), first in 1976 and then on subsequent productions that I got to know some of the actors and crew intimately. Working as a Stills photographer on the sets, I spent a lot of time in Calcutta at the film studios around Tollygunje.

Beyond the studios the re-engagement with the city of Calcutta, its streets and spaces were of a very different kind from what I remembered in my childhood when I accompanied my mother on her summer holiday visits to see my ageing grandmother.

It was stifling on the studio sets - film shootings had that effect on me. On the other hand it was therapeutic to get away and wander the streets, to feed the inner churning. It was a way of dealing with my own sense of being of mixed origin and of being marginal.

It was this feeling that drove me to explore the Tangra and Dhapa areas of South Calcutta, photographing amongst the Chinese community - or whatever fragments of them that remained. Brutally mistreated, especially after the hate that developed against them as the ‘enemy’ following the national humiliation of India’s defeat to China in 1962, their exodus from the subcontinent had already begun. Many of them were subsequently interned to prison camps in Deoli in Rajasthan.

The Chinese army marched into upper Assam all the way to Tezpur in the Northeastern part of India. So for the political and military blunders that our country made, the Chinese Indian populations suffered, particularly in Calcutta - a community that had lived here for generations, coming at first as migrants from mainland China in search of a better life ever since the late 18th century.

And many of those whom I had photographed in the previous year had subsequently left for Australia, Canada and the U.K., leaving India to find a new life of equal opportunities, better economic prosperity and thereby giving them a new lease of life. They managed to break out of those stereotypical roles of past generations that lived and worked as shoemakers, laundrymen, small dentists and low-end restaurant owners.

My engagement with the Haka Chinese community in the Tangra area, this group who lived, owned and ran leather tanneries - and in a diminished way still does - was my first endeavour to document a community in transition, coming to terms with themselves, marginal, closed but proud, and friendly. It was also a way to look at my mixed Indian and Burmese origins and find away to deal with these churnings in my late teens and early twenties.

Past Exhibitions

At Art Heritage Gallery, New Delhi
21 December, 2012 to 23 January, 2013

At Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
05 April to 02 May, 2014

 

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Tangra
Tangra
 
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In pictures: Calcutta in the 1970s
BBC News, Feb 18, 2013
Who’s afraid of Pablo Bartholomew?
Daily Post, Feb 16, 2013
In focus, the human being
Frontline, Feb 09-22, 2013
Pablo Bartholomew Calcutta Diaries
Le Journal de la Photographie, 11 Feb, 2013
Let’s talk pictures
Deccan Herald, Feb, 2013
A city held by time
Frontline, 09-22 Feb, 2013
Pictorial notes from a chronicler’s diary
The Sunday Guardian, 19 Jan, 2013
Notes from the overground
Hindustan Times, 18 Jan, 2013
Howrah High Jinx – Pablo Bartholomew
Emaho Magazine, 14 Jan, 2013
Arts : …unravelling the past
The Hindu, 11 Jan, 2013
New Show Revisits His Calcutta Years
ART INFO - Q & A, 03 Jan, 2013
The Calcutta Diaries – Slide Show
ART INFO - Slide Show, 03 Jan, 2013
Calcutta Cameraman
Indian Express, 02 Jan, 2013
The eyes of an outsider
The Hindu, 29 Dec, 2012
India’s Weekend Guide for Delhi
ART INFO - Weekly Guide Listing, 28 Dec, 2012
The Calcutta Diaries – Listing
Time out Listing, 28 Dec, 2012
Recreates memories of another day
Times Of India, 26 Dec, 2012
Seeking self in the city of joy
Asian Age, 24 Dec, 2012
From the outside, looking in
Tahelka, 21 Dec, 2012
 
L  i  n  k  s
www.bartholomew.tv
Richard & Pablo Bartholomew
A Critic's Eye
Richard Bartholomew
The Art Critic
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Richard & Pablo Bartholomew
At the Fishbar, 2011
Outside In
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"Outside In" in China
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"Outside In" in Australia
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Fine Art TV
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Art Talk - Part I
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Art Talk - Part II
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Bhopal Gas Tragedy - 1984
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Morphine addict in India
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NetPhotoGraph
Pablo Bartholomew's media archive
Illustrated Bio
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Nagas in New York
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