Learn from the Masters: Pablo Bartholomew



Film grain is unique and can add a definitive edge to your pictures. Photograph/Pablo Bartholomew

Film grain is unique and can add a definitive edge to your pictures. Photograph/Pablo Bartholomew

On the occasion of our thirteenth anniversary in 2010, 13 great masters drew from a lifetime of experience to give you over 150 carefully selected tips on photography and ways of seeing. They debated the idea of ‘the perfect moment’ and share their personal practices. In this edition, Great Master Pablo Bartholomew shares his tips for better photography.

Consider Shooting Film
Digital cameras may be fun, but it does not require much effort on the part of the photographer. Automation makes things easy and software like Photoshop hide all the mistakes we have made while shooting. 85 Switch to Classic Mode The simplest way to master the craft is to shoot film, process it and print it. This is for the braveheart and for those who do not mind hard work. Remember that there are no shortcuts!

Find a Darkroom Space
The concept of the darkroom space is becoming obsolete, but it is the only way to understand the limits to which you can stretch the medium. I did! Find a darkroom or build one along with some friends. Treat the darkroom as a sacred workspace.

Trial and Error Helps
When you shoot on film, you do not have the luxury of instant feedback, and might commit more mistakes. However, these mistakes will help you understand the medium, its scope and its finer points.

Master Exposure
Use black and white film. Films belonging to Kodak, Fujifilm and Ilford are still available. Invest in an incident light meter so that you can expose correctly to get details in both shadows and highlights.

Make Your Own Developer
You can make a low-contrast developer easily by mixing 8gm of Metol and 100gm of Sodium Sulphite into one litre of water.

Process the Film Yourself
It is like giving birth to your own creation. You have complete control over the final look and can see the picture being formed in front of your own eyes.

Make Contact Sheets
A contact sheet is a traditional darkroom idea that is an effective summary of what you have shot. It can also be used as a style of presenting your work!

Edit Your Work
Editing your contact sheet is an interesting and important exercise. Red wax pencils, a good loupe, and a magnifying glass will help you look at what you shot and mark which negatives you need to print.

And Finally, Print It!
It is best to print on fibre paper, but if you cannot find it, you can also use resin-coated paper. Once you have learnt the basics, learn the art of dodging and burning to enhance the final look.

Practise and Master These Steps
Mastering these steps is the only way to learn the limits of B&W photography. That, in turn, will allow you to understand and appreciate the photographic process.

Learn from the Internet
There is a vast resource of information and video tutorials on the internet. All this is a far cry from the time I shot these photographs. At that time, all I had was the Focal Press Encyclopedia of Photography. That, too, is a brilliant source of information and is still around.

Invest Time
The art of mastering photography is like allowing food to cook slowly, so that it catches the required flavour. Time has to be invested to gain knowledge.

My Interpretation of the Moment
The perfect moment is about combining a strong graphic composition along with good technique and timing. I believe that a beginner should shoot film to understand photography better.

Renowned photographer and two-time World Press Photo award winner, Pablo Bartholomew is noted for his photojournalistic work and also his autonomous bodies of personal work. He has also been on the jury of the World Press Photo and the World Photography Awards.

Tags: black and white, june 2010, Pablo Bartholomew, photojournalism, World Press Photo Award