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Festival finale turns to India

121206_17
Man with a bag, Bombay, c. 1979, from Pablo Bartholomew’s collection Chronicles. Photograph: Pablo Bartholemew

The closing exhibition in the 8th Angkor Photo Festival is award-winning photographer Pablo Bartholomew’s Outside in the Chronicles of a Past Life, opening at École Française d’Extrême-Orient at 6pm.

Tonight’s FCC Angkor slideshow will be guest-curated by celebrated Bangladeshi photographer Munem Wasif.

Outside in the Chronicles of a Past Life combines two existing exhibitions: Outside In: A Tale of 3 Cities, featuring monoschrome portraits of Bartholomew’s family and friends taken in 1970s Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta, and Chronicles of a Past Life, which depicts street life from when he was working as a young photographer in Bombay.

The exhibition is outdoors, to “invite audiences to interact with it, and move beyond the white-cube gallery set up”, according to Asia coordinator Jessica Lim.

“It’s a huge endeavor because these pictures are from 40 years ago. There are also very personal pictures of his own life as a young man; his friends, his girlfriends, his family. What was it like to be an Indian 40 years ago living in Bombay?”

“For me it was interesting to have the inside world and the outside world, and to see it together,” says Bartholomew.

“It was also interesting for me to bring it out and do an outdoor hang, without the precious frames and the trappings of a gallery or a museum.”

The black and white photographs date from the same era: between 1975 and 1982.

Chronicles depicts various street scenes: from a group traveling on a motorbike with a woman sat in the sidecar, to a horse-drawn cart against an urban backdrop, to a hunched over, elderly gentleman walking down a Mumbai street, looking curiously into the camera.

“With street photography you navigate just on the street and you engage with people as you come across things and try and photograph them as quietly and invisibly as possible,” Bartholomew says.

“So that’s really the street photo work. And then Outside In is the more intimate diary of growing up, shot over five or seven years. So it’s really in retrospect put together.

“This work has a different resonance now from when I made it.”

He adds that when the local Cambodians were helping him put up the photos, they commented that the images – particularly those of Bartholomew’s friends and family – seemed “so familiar”.

There is a particular connection with audiences, he says, especially those that grew up in the ’70s.

The exhibition runs until December 16.

The final slideshow of the festival is curated by photographer Munem Wasif, starting at 8.30pm.

Award-winning Wasif, who has been published internationally and now teaches documentary photography in Bangladesh, sought out work from young photographers that he felt had “soul”.

“Because the audience is mostly young photographers and a lot of students, I thought I would like to show work which in some way is emotionally connected,” he says. “Where you get a really strong feeling; be it really sweet, angry, hard or poetic.

“Also I tried to select different kinds of work in terms of vocabulary. So one work can be really conceptual, another can be portraiture, another can be street photography, but it’s all different – photography’s very versatile.”

Wasif cites two particular artists featured in the show: British documentary photographer Vanessa Winship who won last year’s prestigious Henri Cartier-Bresson Award (the first woman to do so) and Australian Philip Blenkinsop. 

“Vanessa’s been doing portraiture for the last three years on the border of Azerbaijan,” he says.

“She took photographs of schoolgirls; sometimes alone, sometimes with their friends and they just posed for her. You can see these beautiful innocent faces in front of the camera; it’s so nice but it’s so simple – there’s no gimmick.”

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