You love India or you don’t. There is no in-between and definitely no indifference. As with every extreme, especially with love and hate, passion will rule, and for the artist the feeling can express itself through extreme beauty.
The Aurovilian photographer Olivier Barot loves India and the result is that each of his photographs are an expression of this endearment. Spirituality is at the center of Olivier’s work. He is deeply touched by this country where there are no norms, where dimensions do not exist anymore and are not limited by rigid pathways. He sees India through the Vedas and Sri Aurobindo, and it is spirituality which guides him. The result has been 25 years of beautiful photography.
The subject matter of his photography has a distinct mystical tone. It is easy to recognise the magnificent architecture of Thanjavur, the temple of Madurai, the interior of the temple of Rameswaram, the landscapes of Hampi and, of course, Varanasi.
The photo "Sadhu and Pillar" reminds Olivier of the first time he went to Thanjavur. A sadhu asked him to take a picture. It gave Olivier the desire to return to this place and it remains one of his favourite in India. There he has taken many pictures of what he considers is a major architectural achievement.
Many of his photographs are soaked in a misty and powerful haze reminiscent of the paintings of Turner. This brings out the power of beautiful places like Hampi. Some others, like the one with an elephant in the background, look like they could be a drawing or a fine painting of Courbet because of the detail and the clarity of lines and composition.
The most magnificent one is of Varanasi. In this subtle composition the stairs of a ghat leading down to the Ganges takes half of the frame and the other half is of an incomprehensible haze.
Olivier defies all norms and dives into ultimate creativity within photography. The distinction between lines and emptiness, haze and definition, immerses the mind in the mist of one of the most mystical place on earth and makes you wonder about the paradox of form and emptiness. Using analog photography, he creates moments when the spiritual and the beautiful intermingle in an allegory of deep emotion.
This aesthetic continues in all his work including fashion photography, the curating of the exhibition on Sri Aurobindo at the Visitors Centre as well as his film ‘Auroville the City the Earth Needs’.
Viewing his exhibition, I felt Olivier uses the art of photography to reach the soul. I hope we will all have an opportunity in the near future to delight again in the beauty and spirit of this magical country through more of Olivier’s soulful uplifting photographs.