Indian Émigré’s
Pablo Bartholomew

Fresh arrivals from India who work as farmhands take a lunch break , Yuba City, California
Fresh arrivals from India who work as farmhands take a lunch break , Yuba City, California

In the series which he calls “The Indians in America” or “The Émigrés”, Bartholomew photographs Indians living in the United States, documenting their negotiation of cultural heritage and physical place. These frank visual descriptions of Indians, in the environments that define them within the American landscape, investigate a spectrum of the Indian diasporic experience…


Nand Kaur with her son watching TV, a World War II war veteran, Yuba City, California
Nand Kaur with her son watching TV, a World War II war veteran, Yuba City, California

The image of Kaur is typical of Bartholomew's matter-of-fact style in the series, the subject aware of the photographer's presence, placed in surroundings that help define who the person is. With the juxtapositions of generations of Kaurs and the old portraits on the walls of their bland American house, the photograph underscores the process of intercultural negotiation as what Bartholomew saw as an "ever-evolving" process.


A wedding in the back lot of a church, New Jersey.
A wedding in the back lot of a church, New Jersey.

Bartholomew himself explains the variety of Indian experiences in America he hopes to reveal, from successful scientists, scholars and businessmen to the more anonymous lives of those struggling to find their place. He makes photos which "counterpoise the struggle with the success, the humor with the irony; to look at rites and rituals in everyday life such as births, marriages, death, and community and religious occasions in the context of their shifting cultural and physical landscapes" (Bartholomew 1994). Indeed, many of Bartholomew's photographs focus on intercultural dialogues, like his images of multinational weddings and Indian-style ceremonies in American contexts (see next image). As Bartholomew documents it, the Indian diasporic experience is a delicate fusion of assimilation and integration tempered by the preservation of traditions and values.

Paul Sternberger
Associate Professor at the Rutgers University in America, specializes in American Art and the History of Photography with a special interest in contemporary photography and video from India.