A month ago, photographed at Petit Palais, in itself an architectural delight. Add to that le Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, which permitted entry — gratis. I did not have time (nor the inclination) to look at the Oscar Wilde Exhibition which was also on display at the time, and for which you need a ‘billet‘. No doubt, I saw all the showcased art, and art hanging on the walls – paintings, tapestries, etc – and furniture, and sculptures… speaking of which…

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I saw some interesting nouveau art displays by contemporary artists – a stack of empty cartons piled up, a line up of coal-filled burlap ‘gunny sacks’; water pouring out of a hosepipe sticking out of something like a Sintex water tank... etc. All of these in such opulent settings had been both comical and a marvel. It was, after all, ART. “Why should art always have to be beautiful!”, I heard one student say to me. That was the artist’s viewpoint she had shared with me. 😉 What was interesting were the young students of the history of art — note, not students of Art, but of the history of art, patiently asked what we, as visitors thought of the “sculpture” (examples I cited above); and then they shared the artist’s perspective, viewpoint and purpose for creating such “ART” for display in the palace. During which time I also met one young German student – she said she was working on her Master’s thesis on temple architecture of South India. She planned to do a doctorate.

In turn, I shared with her my brief experience of studying temple architecture for a presentation to a group of young students in Toronto. I gave them a compare/contrast on temples of the north versus those of the south in India. The Kodak carousel projector did not work for some reason, so instead of projecting slides, I had shown them a bunch of large size photographs I had shot in Hampi, Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole. Those photos are now packed up and sitting in crates in my closet, with nowhere to display. The digital era has brought to light millions of such images in the public domain, especially since those sites were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. You’ll think I’ve gone from Paris to Pattadakal! Well, that’s just me… 😉

Explosions at Bodh Gaya!

My tympanic membrane is tired, and hardened from the continual onslaught of explosive news. Not only tired of the terrorism, I’m sickened by the endless rapes that women suffer mercilessly. Add to that the helplessness one feels, reading about the pointless deaths of hundreds, thousands – en masse!

Now, worse, am defeated by the mindless attempt at destruction of something sacred… not merely from a religious perspective; but it’s the sanctity of a brick structure that withstood the test of time, and weathered the elements for over two millennium – The Mahabodhi Temple! By using explosives, miscreants shook the foundations of an edifice that is symbolic of ‘ahimsa’, non-violence, and is sacred to millions of people across the globe.

A while back I posted photographs from a visit to the ruins of Nalanda, not far (56 miles) from Bodh Gaya in Bihar; also an institute of higher learning in Ancient India, particularly for Buddhist monks. I dread to think of the damage that depraved minds are capable of doing… and shudder at the thought of the pain they are causing those who are perhaps the few among the peace-loving people remaining in this world.

The Getty Center, LA, California…


The Getty Center, LA, California
by chitralekhan

Awesome architecture; I love the geometry, minimalistic design, shades of just whites used extensively! Photographed this on a recent visit to Los Angeles.

Victorian House, Show Low, AZ


Victorian House, Show Low, AZ

by chitralekhan

Don’t stop… restoration in progress!

Well, last October, on a day trip to Show Low, I snapped this house in a flash! No, I did not buy it… I wish! Though, if I recall right, property prices were so low (no pun intended) at the time, I could have gone shopping!  😉

A moment after I saw this beauty, the traffic light turned green… couldn’t get a better close-up, nor could we see the house from up close, not much point in stopping… with work in progress… but I just saw some interesting pix of this house here. So, before you head there, take a peek through my photo, for a preview! 😉

Buddhist Monks at Nalanda


Buddhist Monks at Nalanda
by chitralekhan

Modern day monks… at the ancient center of learning, in Bihar, India.

When I visited Nalanda in November of 1996, it was the Chinese Year of the Monkey… 4694 Bing-Shen! So, “What’s the context?” you may well ask… well, among the Buddhist Jataka Tales, is also a delightful but profound story about The Monkey King, stressing upon the importance of self-sacrifice.  🙂

Much of what we know today about Buddhism can also be attributed to the accounts written by renowned Buddhist monk, Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang)… scholar & traveler sans camera! 😉 🙂

The Ruins of Nalanda University


The ruins of Nalanda University
Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

The excavated remains of an ancient center of learning… from over 2000 years ago!

I may not be able to visit Taxila (now in modern-day Pakistan) in this lifetime, but was very fortunate to be able to walk around on the very same grounds of Nalanda where, at one point in history, Buddhist monks and scholars had meditated. Steeped in history, this site is truly fascinating!

Soaking under the blazing hot sun – even in early November ’96 , with a basic camera loaded with 35 mm Extachrome slide film (alas, transparencies in this digital era are now relegated to photography history), I clicked as many pix as possible in a matter of a couple of hours.  Oh yeah, at the time,  it was fun… even without Flickr… 😉  Just a low-end camera, with amateur photography skills, but the joy of travel surpassed all other pleasures… the pix were so I could view them at leisure… even much later!

(Oh no, no plagiarizing… besides, in the pre-internet, pre-broadband era you’d have to contact a photo stock agency, and they’d charge what seemed then like an arm and a leg… I know, we used a lot of those in our ad campaigns!) 😉

Plan of excavated ruins: Ancient Nalanda University


Plan of excavated ruins: Ancient Nalanda University
Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

Layout of Nalanda University, (Bihar), India: one of the ancient higher-learning institutions, particularly for Buddhist monks from near & the Far East… think 5th & 6th centuries B.C. Alas, it still remains among UNESCO’s tentative lists of designated World Heritage sites:  Excavated Remains at Nalanda

I took this photograph in the pre-digital era, in November 1996… while on a tour of Jain & Buddhist pilgrim centers in Bihar… Samed Shikharji, Pavapuri, Rajgir, Kundalpur, etc.

Pablo Bartholomew… passionate artist, photographer, photo-journalist

Today, reminiscing about my ‘advertising’ career in India – soon fading; and while reviewing my sporadic flirtations with photography; about Ektachrome, Kodachrome (also now relegated to the archives of photography), my thoughts drifted to the time Pablo Bartholomew was doing a calendar assignment for Kodak.  The theme for that specific year (somewhere in the mid-’80s, I’d say), was ‘windows’.

An old-style building in South Mumbai — with arches that framed the window panes, enhanced by ‘money plants‘ and lilac ‘morning glory‘ vines around them (thanks to my mother’s green thumb, and deft gardening skills) — somehow, must have caught Pablo’s attention, probably during a recce (Was the ad agency for Kodak then O&M? I’m not certain of that). Of course, someone from the agency approached us to request for permission to shoot ‘our’ window. Once the permission was more-than-willingly granted by mother, a date was set; they brought across a pretty model who posed by the window, and Pablo Bartholomew,  standing three-four stories below, across the street, zoomed in on our ‘archaic’ building’s architectural detail. Certainly considered archaic for a day and age then, when Hafeez Contractor and Raheja’s hi-rises were the order of the day. You just have to look at Nariman Point, Mumbai of the 1980s to see what I mean. In contrast, someone mentioned to me just the other day that our 100+ years-old building may soon be deemed a heritage building. About that, well, we just must wait and watch.

Anyway, the point is, I was wondering, if by some remote chance I could find an image of this ‘window’, online… may be in Kodak India’s archives of their then much-sought-after annual calendars… alas, I couldn’t find any. Mother had this picture framed, which she proudly displayed on the wall for a very long time – more of a salute to her own gardening skills, than to Pablo’s eye for beauty, or for that matter with any connection to Kodak or creativity (in the photography sense of the word). 😉 Of course, people would often ask her if the girl with pensive mood by the window (in the picture) was her own daughter… in response, she would beam away but I daresay, admit with much aplomb, “Oh no, she’s a model! She even used our bedroom as her changing room!” Of course, I was not sure then, whether I should laugh or cry at this response. 🙂 😉

Well, to cut a long story short – during my search for this image, I came across some interesting links that gave me some insight into Pablo the photographer, and Pablo a 50+, independently-thinking Indian of the early 1960s. Hope you will enjoy viewing his portfolio. Click, if you wish to, on each picture, to view it at a larger scale. Also, you may want to click on the video to listen to Pablo speak about his own work in this interesting film.

For Pablo’s more serious pursuits in photojournalism listen to his interview on www.artbabble.org. His portfolio of photos on the Nagas exhibited at the Rubin Museum of Art, NY, is simply astounding… my heart skipped many a beat!

Pablo Bartholomew walked away from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy... well, almost!

Getting nostalgic… about New York City

Soon it will be a year since I left New York!  As spring creeps up here, I’m beginning to miss those day-long trips to NYC!

Aching for a change from the wintry whites and suburban life on Long Island, my escape to Manhattan with its urban cityscape used to provide me with all the forms and colors I needed to satiate my visual senses! Here are some random images from my ramblings in the Big Apple.

What jumps out from my tag cloud?

Trick the eye… wait, this is no scam!

A few days back, I blogged about scams that have ruled the better (or, in this case, worst) part of 2008. But today, as this year draws to a close, I’m referring to trickery of a pleasurable kind… visually pleasing, this art technique involves creating extremely realistic images in two-dimension, but they give you an illusion of 3-D paintings!

“Yeah!” as 15th century Dae Jang Geum would say with wonder-filled eyes and a beautiful smile, if she were to see 21st century chalk artist Julian Beever’s pavement art. The Belgium-based English artist paints murals and oils but is most famous for his anamorphic paintings created with a uniquely distorted perspective. I haven’t had the opportunity to see the original work of the old masters like Masaccio or modern masters like Salvador Dali who utilized this technique in some of their paintings, but I do recall seeing wall murals in old Quebec City with the same stunning effect that Beever conjures through his art on the streets of cities worldwide.  Thanks to the internet, email “forwards” and “virtual” images, (even if one hasn’t had the opportunity to see his ‘real’ work) he is perhaps best-known for pavement artfrom Birmingham to Buenos Aires; from New York to Australia.

Sad to say, though, a three decades old mural on 112-4 Prince Street in SoHo, NY, painted by architectural muralist Richard Haas, was vandalized with graffiti on it, earlier this year.

Here’s an image of what I saw a few years back and then again more recently last summer in Place Royale, Quebec. You can see other examples of  trompe-l’oeil art even in Italy, France, Germany, the US and even in Cuba!

Wall Mural
Place Royale, Old Quebec City, Canada: Wall Mural