|A Critic's Eye, Photographs by Richard Bartholomew. |
Published by Chatterjee & Lal, Photoink & Sepia, 2009.
A Critic's Eye
Reviewed by Faye Robson __________________________
RICHARD BARTHOLOMEW A Critic's Eye
Photographs by Richard Bartholomew. Chatterjee & Lal, Photoink & Sepia, 2009. Hardbound. 104 pp., 56 tritone illustrations, 6-3/4x8-1/4.
Slim, subdued, unassuming even, this small hardback, published jointly by a trio of photographic institutions based in India, sets out to afford the most respectful and thoughtful possible summation of the late Richard Bartholomew's work as a photographer. From the subtle, simple cover, swathed in muted duck-egg blue and featuring a small, enigmatic black-and-white image - a woman gracefully throwing her sari over her shoulder, glimpsed as through a door stood ajar - the book feels calculated to communicate an atmosphere of quiet, earnest aesthetic observation and contemplation.
This mood is carried into the book itself, both as a quality of the particular selection of photos and of their presentation, which is modest to the point of being disconcerting, at least to a reader familiar with more commercial and lavish photobooks. There is no 'blurb,' no overbearing critical or editorial presence; all text, including an insightful (if densely argued) essay contributed by Aveek Sen, is relegated to the back of the book and the reader is left to a consideration of the photographs themselves.
And what photos they are. A variety of subjects, including intimate scenes from Bartholomew's family life, gatherings among his circle of art-world acquaintances, outdoor studies (for want of a better word) and more loosely conceived urban and suburban landscapes, are united by several key visual themes. Presence and history are inscribed on every surface shown here, for example, from the trunk of a tree carved with lovers' initials to the patched canvas walls of an abandoned marquee. This is perhaps to be expected from a man whose work (in the role for which he is best known, as an art critic) was the study of man's creative instincts, and showcases Bartholomew's skill in capturing the texture and minute detail of even mundane scenes.
Faye Robson is an editor of illustrated books, currently based in London, UK. She has worked on photobooks for publishers including Aperture Foundation, New York and Phaidon Press, London.