Reviews, A book that captures the very essence of Bombay….Betsy has done a profound job in showcasing Bombay’s charm to the rest of the world through her lens. 11/21/07

The Indian Express, North American edition 11/09/07

“More than anything else, Bombay Jadoo is testimony to the rich imagination of a high caliber artist: the cavernous city’s innermost secrets are revealed almost like a flower that opens its petals at night.”

Photo District News: ….” Betsy Karel’s Bombay Jadoo—a triumphant return and a happy ending.” 11/07

Video courtesy: CNN IBN


“Betsy Karel’s choice to shoot present-day Mumbai in black and white in her book Bombay Jadoo at first seems perverse. India’s premier photojournalist Raghubir Singh once wrote that “the eyes of India only see in color”, and one wonders if, as an American photojournalist, Karel just doesn’t get it. But by the third or fourth image, the aesthetic makes sense. Karel was inspired by Indian novels and movies to search for echoes of the jadoo (magic) of old Bombay. Her images of Mumbai residents – from gossiping old men to cricket-playing boys, cooks and street performers – are hauntingly beautiful, and their lack of color makes them startlingly direct. By going against the grain, Karel does capture some of the elusive jadoo of a city whose present reality retains a lot of echoes of its past self.”


“[Betsy Karel] sees otherworldliness in the unlikeliest of places – even a train journey. The result is that, for the reader, the photographs too are laced with magic.”

The First Post, online magazine, UK

“Its intense substance spiked with some dark humour is quite captivating.”

— The Hindu, New Delhi

“The gaze of the photographer is clearly not on snapping clichéd, picture postcard images but to focus on the city’s people, and their cluttered and chaotic life.”

— The Deccan Herald, Bangalore

“The temptation will be to say “that’s Hanging Garden” or “could that be Chor Bazaar”, but don’t fall into the trap of immediately trying to identify the physical setting. Instead, absorb the element of fantasy created, ironically, by unadorned realism.”

— Business Standard, Mumbai

“From rikshawallas to girls on local trains, from Juhu beach to the Taj Mahal Hotel, she discovers the ’swirling, urban fairy tale’ that is Mumbai.”

— Trendylicious, e-newsletter

“A stunning collection of black and white images.”

— Mumbai Mirror

“It’s in the mundane that Karel’s empathy and tenderness shine though.”

— Time Out Mumbai

“The book itself resonates with the soul of the city’s humanity captured in an intensely personal manner in black and white.”

— Business Standard, Mumbai

Bombay Jadoo is a deceptively simple photo book that engages the reader from the very first page… Karel’s preference for immediacy rather than distance in her photographs captures a time, mood and the energy of a place as much as that of the person being photographed.”

— Outlook Traveler

Translated from German

American photographer Betsy Karel unravels an urban fairytale in her photobook Bombay Jadoo. Whenever in Mumbai over the past years, she forced herself to seek out stories of humanity and humour in the throng of buses, bicycles, people, dogs and cats. In the present she grasps hold of motifs from the past, as if the 1950s had not yet passed. (…) With her enchanting crystal-clear black-and-white pictures, Karel has brought the Hindi word “jadoo” (magic) back to life.

— Die Zeit

Wandering through Bombay on an ordinary working day sometimes feels as if one had finally discovered the site of successful big city symphony. (…) Over eight long years American photographer Betsy Karel travelled regularly to Bombay, riding on overcrowded trains to the city centre, visiting fishermen in the early morning, spending all evening at the beach carnivals and photographing people in their ordinary every-day lives (…) Her pictures exude calmness without appearing idyllic: these are unique scenes, often mysterious, sometimes comical.

— Süddeutsche Zeitung

Translated from Hindi

Karel is endlessly fascinated by the way that Indian novelists produce laughter in their writings from aspects and situations of humanity…entering into alleys, roads, public and private places…she has captured with her camera various facets of the life of Mumbaikars…Betsy makes viewers of the photo exhibition come face to face with Mumbai’s life. In her exhibition, she shows Mumbai’s vulnerability, magic, melody and most importantly, the smiles of Mumbaikars. Perhaps this was Betsy’s impetus that drew her to Mumbai.

— Nav Bharat Times, Mumbai

Only in silence, expression becomes prominent. This statement is proved by American photographer and photojournalist Betsy Karel’s book Bombay Jadoo….This book is the result of a scrutinizing gaze to capture the pulse of urban life…This book takes life’s everyday struggles and makes representations out of real life in the street, neighborhood and corner.

— Hari Bhoomi, New Delhi


Karel’s work takes us into the everyday jadoo of Bombay life … she is a true chronicler of the extraordinariness of the ordinary.

— Mira Nair, Director of Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake

A friend of mine who lives in Mumbai recently came home on vacation and praised New York City’s quiet streets and fresh air. I’ve never been to Mumbai. I can only imagine the flood of relentless stimuli. It takes a special gift to find order in all of this. With Bombay Jadoo, Betsy Karel not only sees the order, she sees the grace.

— Alex Soth, Photographer

On the wall above my desk is a Betsy Karel photograph from Bombay Jadoo. It is of a young Indian man exuberantly swinging one-handed from a spinning carnival Ferris wheel.
The improbable joy of the scene reminds me of life itself and of why we photograph. So do many of Betsy’s intimate, original images. Because her work so affirms both life and photography, Bombay Jadoo has made a place for itself on my slender shelf of timeless books.

— Sam Abell, Photographer