Jyoti Bhatt: The Photographer Who Preserved Rural Indian Life

Jyoti Bhatt was among the early students of one of the first art schools set up after India’s Independence in 1947.

Born in the western state of Gujarat in 1934, Bhatt documented rural Indian culture and captured the traditional ways of life and craftsmanship that are at risk of vanishing.

He went to study in art schools in Europe and New York and became one of the most innovative modernist photographers in South Asia.

In 2019, Bhatt was awarded the Padma Shri – one of the India’s highest civilian awards – and his work can now be found in the collections of the Tate Modern, London and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, among others.

The first major exhibition of Bhatt’s photographs titled Time & Time Again will be launched early next year at the newly-opened Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in India’s southern city of Bangalore.

Here’s a selection of Bhatt’s works.

This photograph of Haryanvi women creating a Sanjhi mural painting, was made in the year 1977,
Women of northern Haryana state creating a mural painting, 1977. Traditionally, these paintings are created during a festival, which falls between September and October
Wall painting showing odiya motifs, 1987
A woman from the Meena community decorating a bullock for the Govardhan festival (Rajasthan), 1969
A woman in the northern Rajasthan state decorating a bullock for a local festival, 1969
A woman guarding a Mandana painting (Rajasthan), 1986–1987
A woman guarding a traditional floor painting in Rajasthan, 1986
A woman from Mithila working on the initial stages of a mural of the goddess Durga, 1977
A woman from Mithila in Bihar working on a mural of Hindu goddess Durga, 1977. Mithila or Madhubani painting is a ritual mural art form that survives to this day. The artists were traditionally, and exclusively, women from the Madhubani region
Rajasthan artist
Artist from Rajasthan next to her wall painting, 1969
Mother and child in Gujarat
A mother and child in front of a traditional wall painting in their home in Gujarat, 1987. They were made by placing a hand or a tool against the wall and and blowing a solution of jowar (sorghum, a local millet) paste onto it, to create an outline of the subject

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