Paris Photo 2016 - Jyoti Bhatt Vintage Prints, 1966-1994

Jyoti Bhatt has been actively engaged with photography since the mid-1960s, and his photographs constitute an important chapter in the history of photography in India. Tasveer’s exhibition at Paris Photo 2015 provides an opportunity to see an important collection of over 30 of his original vintage photographs, predominantly from 1966 to 1994. This includes his photographs made over three decades in rural Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar, as well as his extremely rare experimental studio work.

 Photography’s struggle to be considered as an art form in the Indian context has been a long one, and Jyoti Bhatt was an integral part of this process. Along with six other artists from Baroda, he organised a show titled Painters with a Camera in 1969. One of the first exhibitions of its kind, it was a momentous event, since as Bhatt notes, even if “the works were not great photographs, it showcased painters who accepted the camera as a potential tool for their expression.” At a time when the Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s National Academy for Visual Arts, refused to show photographs in its shows, Bhatt recounts how he sneaked in a photoraphic collage as a ‘silver gelatin print’ — titled A Face, his submission for the ‘Graphic Art’ section of their Annual Art Exhibition in 1971 went on to be selected by the jury, only because they did not associate the term ‘silver gelatin print’ with photography.

 Bhatt’s disinclination to be labelled, whether as photographer, painter or print-maker, stems from a fluid understanding of mediums, and an ultimately larger investment in the visual form. His experimental photographs as seen in this exhibition therefore, reflect his sensibility as a graphic artist, just as his prints reflect a photographer’s perspective.

 Bhatt’s deepened understanding of the aesthetic configurations of Indian tribal and folk art, as a result of over three decades of travel and experience photographing indigenous art and craft forms of rural regions, forms a primary influence on his work. His photo-collages may therefore be seen evoking these traditions, through both form and content. Free from literal interpretation, they produce polysemic responses through the obliteration of all references to reality, indexicality and context in a photograph. Stretching the limits of the medium through their exploration of form, they are ample evidence of Bhatt’s formative position in the history and evolution of Indian photography.

Exhibition Schedule


12 November - 15 November 2021

Grand Palais, Paris