In my 35 years of practice, I have donned several hats. That of a photojournalist, advertising photographer, corporate photographer, editorial photographer, bookmaker and independent publisher, bookseller, filmmaker, Curator, grantmaker and most importantly, educator. and I continue to wear them all. I work in the intersections of society, culture, governance, environment and economics. ‘Philosophy of everyday life’ – why are we the way we are? Our relationship with each other and the environment, growing conflict in the world – are some of the questions that I think about a lot. I am also interested in urbanism – the way we are shaping our cities and our lives.

I am a self-taught photographer. I quit my conventional college education in 1987 and plunged into the world of photography. In the early stages of my career in 1989, I got an opportunity to work on my first book, Karnataka Impressions, which is now sold out. It was published by Gangarams Publications. The editor of the project was H Jayadeva, who became a dear friend, guide and mentor. Post that project which lasted for almost a year, I started freelancing for India Today magazine and tried my hand at Advertising and commercial photography. did shoot for several campaigns, calendars, collaterals. However, the high point of that time was working with a group of photographers in Bangalore, and Mumbai and Delhi to set up, Advertising & Industrial Photographers Association – AIPA.

We worked towards,

    • Streamlining the business procedures with clients and ad agencies.
    • Reducing the import duties on camera and photography equipment from  an astronomical 250 percent to something affordable by working with the Indian government.
    • Third was education.  There was no internet in the 90s and even phone connectivity was not as good as it is today.  Indian economy hadn’t been liberalised, photography education was non-existent. India was not really connected to the world and was seen as a distant land. We developed a series of workshops and in 1991, started the NEWSCHOOL seminar program. We were able to draw several Indian and International masters. We conducted two such workshops – at Bangalore in 1991 and at Delhi in 1993. I was a key member of the organizing team.

I worked on another book on Bangalore with Jayadeva in 1993-94, titled Bangalore Scenes from an Indian City in 1993 and 94. It was published by Gangarams Publications. I  was the lead photographer, and an editorial consultant. Later in 1996 they commissioned me to make a solo  book on Karnataka. I photographed, wrote the captions, designed and supervised the printing.

The internet opened up in 2001 to and it started my association with Getty Assignments, which continues to date. I have photographed for publications and Corporations of over 20 countries. I am also represented by AP. I have photographed for Agence VU, Polaris Images and Global Photo Associates.

I began working on a long term project in 2004 to tell the stories of Indians who have contributed to society against great personal odds. The real heroes of India. The first book in the series, UNSUNG was published in 2007. It sold over 6000 copies helped raise over INR 9 million to the causes of the heroes featured. The second book in the series Unsung Extraordinary Lives was published in 2012. The Third Edition of the project was an exhibition at Serendipity Arts Festival, Goa in 2017. I curated the show  – Celebrating the extraordinary Grandeur of Smallness, consisting of the works of five women artists.

Later I set up UNSUNG Foundation and instituted an annual no strings attached grant of INR 100000/- which the photographer can use to further her practice. Srishti Digilife is the sponsor and partner in this programme. Three such grants have been awarded so far.

Philosophy as an educator

I have been an educator since 2012. The journey started when I was called to help set up a 3 year degree programme at the then newly set up Symbiosis Institute of Photography. After a short part time stint there, I helped institute a 3 year programme in photography at The One School Goa and ran it for 2 years.

Since 2017, I have been working at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology (Now Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology).

I have been teaching across the 4 year under graduate and 2 year  graduate programmes at Srishti.

I have facilitated studios for Foundation studies, workshops and photography and mentored 8th semester graduating projects of the Undergraduate programme.

Srishti is not a photography school and I teach aspiring design and art practitioners. My philosophy as the educator at Srishti has been to facilitate the learning of ‘The Art of Seeing.’

Now my focus now is also helping create New World Makers. Please click here for more

Student Testimonials

* “I can’t begin to express how important it is to me, at this point in my life. I guess that must be true for other young folk as well. But you need to understand what you’re doing is exceptionally remarkable. We have teachers, mentors, faculty but then; we have guides. These are people who hold a firm place in our hearts not because of how important they are but because their knowledge and wisdom helps us become who we are and help us navigate the compass of life.

You’ve managed to hold such a place in many of our hearts.

You won’t be disappointed, I promise you.

I’ll carry this letter; and many more words of wisdom you’ve gifted me throughout the entirety of my existence. Thank you.”

Tanay Sharma
Srishti Institute of Art, Design & Technology
BDes, Human Centred Design, batch of 2020

*I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has been a pleasure working under your guidance and every step of the way, all through these four years. Your classroom has been my safe space, my place to crib, complain to learn and grow. You taught me to love what you do, cherish every memory and use your voice to fight for what is right. You also taught me to love nature, read between the lines and turn every situation into a learning experience. Your life stories have always been inspiring and fun to hear, read and see. I do and always have considered you as a big role model! Being dedicated and passionate in the right way about your work, is something that I learnt from you.  It has been a rollercoaster, these 4 years. But you made it easier. Thank you for being there for me.
So thank you!

Manasee Kulkarni
Srishti Institute of Art, Design & Technology
BDes, Human Centred Design, batch of 2020

*Thank you for helping me find my vision
Shivya Kochar
The One School Goa, 2015

*You are an amazing professor Mahesh. Studying & working with you is a delight. Your values & ambitions are worthy of a lot of appreciation. Thanks for being a kind hearted, generous, talented, inspiring person
Srishti Saraogi
Srishti Institute of Art, Design & Technology
MCra, Creative Art Practices, batch of 2021

Columns on Bangalore Mirror (on photography) – My columns can be read here.
My thoughts and stories
Essay – Whose City is it? For my book Bengaluru/Bangalore In First Person
Between 1996 and 2000. I published a magazine, a tabloid size Magazine on visual thinking, called LIGHT. Please click here to see more.

Karnataka Impressions – 1989
Bangalore – Scenes from an Indian City – 1994
Karnataka – 1997
Bengaluru/Bangalore In First Person – 2012
UNSUNG (Tranlsated to Malayalam and published by DC Books, Kerala) – 2007
UNSUNG-Extraordinary Lives – 2016
Land of the Honey Badger  for Nature Conservation Foundation -2020

Making of the monkey rehabilitation centre for People for Animals Bangalore
Making of Celebrating the Extraordinary Grandeur of Smallness
A film on Grasslands of the Deccan
Music Video – Leaders of Men for Thermal and A Quarter


CLICK – Contemporary Photography in India at Vadhera Gallery – Delhi and London (2008)
Goa International Photo Festival (2015)
Dali International Photo Festival, China (2015)
India Photo Festival at Hyderabad (2015) – Speaker
Presented UNSUNG at Delhi Photo Festival 2011
‘Re-Imagining the People of India” under the aegis of the inaugural Neel Dongre Grant (2013). This work has been exhibited in New Delhi, Hyderabad and France.
Curated the show – Celebrating the Extraordinary Grandeur of Smallness @ Serendipity Arts Festival, 2017 – Goa
India Photo Festival at Hyderabad (2020) – Member of jury for Open Call

TedX talks
TEDxKIITUniversity 2017 – Stories through the lens of a maverick | Mahesh Bhat | TEDxKIITUniversity – YouTube
Indian Institute of Technology, Indore 2017

Link to my talk at Society of  Photographic Education – Murthy Nayak Foundation, Photography Education Symposium at New Dehli, Jan 5-7, 2020 – https://youtu.be/WsMnvAvAi48
Link to an interview published in Photo South Asia – Photo South Asia | 1:1 with Mahesh Bhat

Environmental Work:
Over the last 17 years, I have worked to protect the 5000 acre catchment of Arkavathy river near Hesaraghatta in Bangalore. With my colleagues at Arkavathy & Kumudvathy River Rejuvenation Trust, I spear headed the Public Interest Litigation that helped save a 345 acre grassland by the Hesaraghatta lake in North Bangalore. More about it here and here
Email : mahesh(at)mahehbhat(dot)com