Fending with Fulcrums

Shahidul Alam, Guadalajara, Mexico
November 2017

There is no government I know that does not champion democracy and human rights in its rhetoric but also actively suppress both in its practice. It’s best to recognise that reality and work within it rather than fantasise on some ideal solution that has no relevance to everyday art practice. So we use the tactics of judo wrestlers, using the opponent’s weight and turning it to our advantage. We use fulcrums and gravity and capitalise on the inherent inertia of the establishment. We are nimble and fleeting. As Ali might have done, we flit like the butterfly and sting like the bee.

A student who had been picked up in a massive police raid, reaches out for help from the prison van. photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Continue reading “Fending with Fulcrums”

As Drik As Possible

Climate_MigrantsThe dot matrix Olivetti printer was noisy. The XT computer came without a hard drive: two floppy disks uploaded the operating system. When the electricity went (as it often did), we had to reload it. Our bathroom doubled as our darkroom. A clunky metal cabinet housed our prints, slides, negatives and files. Anisur Rahman and Abu Naser Siddique were our printers; I was photographer, manager, copy editor and part-time janitor. Cheryle Yin-Lo, an Australian who had read about us in a magazine, joined as our librarian. We offered and she happily accepted a local salary. In god we trust
My partner Rahnuma Ahmed often got roped in when we were short-staffed, which was often. That was 25 years ago. Little experience and zero cash rarely got in the way: we started publishing from day one. Postcards, bookmarks (often using offcuts from the press) and even a company calendar were produced by friendly printers who printed on credit. Residents of Bangladesh?s capital, Dhaka, used to seeing flowers, pretty women, mosques and waterfalls, suddenly woke up to social messages in black and white on their wall calendars. It worked, and we were able to sell them door-to-door and pay back the printers ? until there was a flood and half our stock got inundated.
My Garden in the WildsTired of being pitied for our poverty, and do-gooder attempts to ?save? us, we had decided to become our own storytellers. And did we have stories to tell! Our agency Drik, grew, and we picked up many loyal friends and several powerful enemies along the way. Knowing we had to compete with better-resourced entities in the West, we set up the nation?s first email network using Fidonet. Banglarights, our human rights portal, annoyed the government; our telephone lines were switched off for 30 months. Mainstream galleries turned down exhibitions which were shamelessly political and often critical of the establishment, so we built our own. The government sent riot police to close down our shows on several occasions. Being stabbed in the street, arrested, and generally persecuted became some of the more troubling after-effects of our activism, but a nationwide campaign to reopen our gallery, and a court ruling in our favour, convinced us that the person on the street was on our side. That was all the ammunition we needed. Ballakot Rubble 8246
Along the way, we had set up a photo school, Pathshala, now recognized as being among the finest in the world. We also set up a photo festival, Chobi Mela. Again, a highlight of the Asian cultural calendar. Geed up by what we?d achieved in Bangladesh, we set our sights on challenging the global world order. Majority World was born, a platform for local photographers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East with their own stories to tell.
Rescue OperationActivism didn?t pay the bills though and competing in the market place, often with professionals we ourselves had trained, required us to remain cutting edge. Clients cared less for ?good intentions? than they did for good delivery and value for money. It was comforting therefore when a prestigious international client, mentioned in the ?special instruction? section that she wanted the work to be ?As Drik as possible.? Call me Heena
As the organisation grew, we needed better management, stricter controls, increased efficiency and lower costs. This led to a culture shift which didn?t come easily to a group that had grown up like a family and had gotten used to working in a particular way. Our new CEO reminded us, that producing the perfect product was gratifying, but getting it to market on time and within budget, was just as important.
Meeting man's greedDrik today is a role model for the majority world, but a world that is changing. Twenty five years ago, it made sense to start from the ground up. Today we tap into fine professionals we ourselves have groomed, and take them to the international arena. Long term strategy, succession plans and a more global vision are the concerns of the day. It?s a lean, agile and creative organisation run by a younger team, ready for tomorrow. Rejoicing at Ershad's fall
Drik?s ultimate strength however, has been the people who have rallied around us. This includes the people who work here, but goes way beyond it. People, all across the globe, across all conventional barriers, who have believed in us, and stood by us, in the many difficult moments we?ve shared, through many dark nights and days. We owe our very survival to them. Some we have lost forever. Others have stayed away from the limelight, happy to bask in our success from afar. While they have never wanted or expected anything in return, we shall remain indebted to them. This publication is a tribute to them all.
Those we have loved and lost
See as slideshare
All credits and supplementary text available in Flickr page

As Drik as Possible

Introduction to the Drik 2016 calendar.

A behind the scenes glimpse at a remarkable media phenomenon:

The dot matrix Olivetti printer was noisy. The XT computer came without a hard drive: two floppy disks uploaded the operating system. When the electricity went (as it often did), we had to reload it. Our bathroom doubled as our darkroom. A clunky metal cabinet housed our prints, slides, negatives and files. Md. Anisur Rahman and Abu Naser Siddique were our printers; I was photographer, manager, copy editor and part-time janitor. Cheryle Yin-Lo, an Australian who had read about us in a western magazine, joined as our librarian. We offered and she happily accepted a local salary.

Continue reading “As Drik as Possible”

Shahidul Alam presenting at Tate Modern

Violence and Representation – Part 6 18 September 2010 by Shahidul Alam

To coincide with the exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera, this symposium explores violence as a subject in relation to representations in the broadest range of historical and geographical?contexts.
It includes international artists, photojournalists and theorists who from their distinctive perspectives will attempt to unveil notions of spectatorship and consumption of violent images in contemporary culture. Key questions will encompass the notion of the political, apolitical or depoliticised spectator of representations of violence; the consequences of these kinds of practice and the difference between photo reportage and art photography. Speakers include Shahidul Alam, Steve Edwards, Susan Meiselas, Simon Norfolk, John Roberts, Julian Stallabrass and Alberto Toscano. Lawyer Rupert Grey was a discussant. Supported by Oxford Art Journal, Oxford University Press, the Open University and the British?Council.

Shahidul Alam interviewed on Radio Australia

Shahidul Alam interviewed on Radio Australia

It’s a photographic exhibition that’s being described as “a quiet metaphor for the screaming truth.”
From early days, the force became notorious for the number of people killed, allegedly during gun battles, because they had been caught in the ‘crossfire’.
To draw attention to these killings, photographer Shahidul Alam created a project callled ‘Crossfire’ which has shown amidst?controversy?in Bangladesh. The show later went to Queen’s Museum in New York and now comes to Australia.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Shahidul Alam, award-winning photographer and human rights activist.
Exhibitions in Powerhouse Museum Brisbane: Bangladesh 1971 and?Crossfire
Please Retweet #stopcrossfire

Shahidul Alam: Crossfire

Public event???By?BRISBANE POWERHOUSE

7 November?at?09:00?until?3 December?at?17:00 in UTC+10
Paddy Field. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Photographer, journalist, and human rights activist Shahidul Alam examines the issue of the increasing number of extra-judicial killings
in Bangladesh.

In 2004 the Bangladesh government created a new armed enforcement agency, The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), in response to a perceived law and order crisis. From early days RAB became notorious for the number of people that have been killed, allegedly during gun battles, because they?ve been caught in the ?crossfire?.
Shahidul Alam?s Crossfire project was first shown in Bangladesh in 2010 to draw attention to these killings. The government responded by shutting down the show. Eventually, facing a court ruling in favor of Alam, the government backed down and the show was reopened for a day.
Following a successful showing at the Queens Museum of Art New York in April, 2012, this exhibition marks the first time it will be shown in Australia.
Opening night: 6.30pm Wed 07 Nov
Brisbane Powerhouse
Presented by Drik, UQ?s Centre of Communication and Social Change, School of Journalism and Communication, Griffith University?s Queensland College of Art (QCA) and Brisbane Powerhouse

Limon urged to settle

?????? ????? ????????: Prothom Alo

??????? ????????? |??????: ??-??-????
???? ?????

???? ?????

??????????????? ??? ?? ?????? ???? ???? ??????? ????? ???????? ???????? ???????? ???? ??????? ???? ????? ???????? ?????????? ???, ???? ??????????? ?????? ???????? ??????????? ???????? ??? ?? ????????? ?????? ?????? ????? ?????????? ???? ???? ???????? ?????? ???????? ???????? ??? ???? ????? ???????????? ???? ?????????? ???????????? ??????? ????? ???? ????????
?????????? ??????? ?????? ???????? ?????????? (?????) ??????? ?? ?????? ?????? ???? ? ??? ?? ????????? ?????? ????? ??????? ??? ???????? ???? ??????? ?? ???????? ????
??????? ??? ??? ???? ??????? ???? ????? ??????? ????? ?????? ????? ????? ????, ????????? ?????? ??????? ???? ???? ? ??? ?????? ????? ???? ???? ???? ??????? ?????? ??? ???? ? ??? ???????? ??????? ???????? ?????, ??? ???????? ????? ????? ???? ?????? ???? ??? ???? ????? ???????????? ???? ????? ???? ?????? ????? ?????? ????? ?????????? ???? ????? ????? ????????? ????? ???? ???? ???????
?????? ?? ????????? ?????? ?????? ????? ???????????? ???????? ??????? ???????? ?????? ???? ??? ?????? ???? ???????? ??? ???? ????, ?????? ??? ??? (????) ???? ????? ?????????? ??? ????, ??? ?????? (?????? ??) ????? ???? ???? ???? ???? ???????????
???? ? ??? ?? ????????? ?????? ????????, ?????? ???? ????? ????? ???? ???????? ????? ?????? ??????? ????????? ????????? ??????? ????? ?????? ????? ?????, ????? ??? ?????? ??? ???? ?????? ?????? ?????? ????? ???? ?????? ???????? ?????? ????? ??? ???? ??????
????????? ???? ????? ????? ????, ??????? ???? (???? ??????? ???? ????? ???????) ????? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ?????? ????? ??? ???? ???????? ?? ???? ????? ????? ???? ???? ??? ???? ?????? ????? ?????? ?????? ???? ????, ???????? ??? ????? ????, ?? ??? ?????? ???????? ???????? ??? ???? ????? ?????????? ???? ??? ?????????? ???????????? ??????? ???? ????? ??? ? ???????? ???? ???????? ???????? ????????????? ?????? ?? ?????? ????? ??????, ??-? ???? ???? ?????? ???? ??????? ???????? ???? ??? ?????, ?????????? ??????? ??????????? ??? ??? ? ????? ????????? (???) ???????????? ????? ??????? ?? ??? ??? ???? ????????? ???? ???? ????
????? ????????? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ???? ??????? ???? ????????? ??????? ?????? ?? ??? ?? ???? ????? ??? ??????? ?????, ?? ??? ????? ????? ???? ??????? ????????? ?????
????????? ???? ????? ????? ???, ????? ??????? ??????? ??? ?????, ???? ???? ?????? ?? ???? ????? ?????, ?? ????? ?????????? ??? ???? ????? ????, ????? ????? ??????? ???????? ??????? ???????? ?? ??????? ????? ??????????? ???? ??????, ??????? ????? ???? ?????
???????? ??????? ???????? ?????? ???? ???? ??? ???? ????? ?? ????? ?? ????? ???????? ???? ????????? ??? ????? ? ?????? ???? ? ??? ??????????? ????? ??? ??????? ?????? ???? ????? ???? ???????? ???????? ??????? ????? ?????? ?? ???? ?????? ????, ????? ?????? ???? ????????? ????????
??????? ?????? ???? ??? ???????????? ??????? ?????? ?? ???????? ????? ??????? ???????? ???? ????? ????? ?? ?? ????? ???????? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ???? ????????? ??????? ??? ?????? ???????? ????????? ???? ??????? ????? ?????? ?? ??????????? ???????? ?????? ?? ?? ????? ???????? ??????? ??????? ????? ?????? ??????? ?????? ?????? ????? ????? ?? ??????? ?????? ??????? ??? ?????? ???? ????? ?? ???????? ??????? ??? ???? ??????? ????

—–
Related links:

Cowardice unlimited!

by rahnuma ahmed

Limon Hossain with father Tofazzel Akan, mother Henoara Begum,?and amuptated leg. Pongu Hospital, Dhaka, 2011.

RAB's top-ranking officials briefing the press about the attack on Limon.?2011, Dhaka.

Shame on the government!
Shame on the director general, RAB!
Shame on the inspector general of police!
Have the last four years of ruling totally erased all conscience, not even a tiny speck left? Don’t any of you have even an iota of decency? Any little shred of gumption? Of courage?
Does the whole state machinery have to be brought to bear on a 17-year old boy and his family — a family of day labourers, whose youngest son Limon had worked in a brick kiln to pay for his college education until RAB shot off his leg — to pursue your own vendetta? Continue reading “Cowardice unlimited!”

The government's Eid gifts for Limon

by rahnuma ahmed

Limon Hossain, a towering icon of youthful courage and fortitude.?? Daily Star

Everyone was happy this Eid, said the prime minister. Her administration had worked hard to ensure that there were no price hikes, no power cuts. That the roads were in good shape, that the law and order situation was under control.
Sheikh Hasina congratulated herself thus as she exchanged Eid greetings with ?”distinguished guests” and “people from all walks of life” at her official residence. Same press releases year after year, regardless of who’s in power. I remember them from my childhood, no change in wording. Continue reading “The government's Eid gifts for Limon”

RAB victim Limon attacked again

The Daily Star
20th August 2012


Limon Hossain, a Jhalakathi college student maimed by Rab last year, his mother and brother were injured in an attack allegedly by a source of Rapid Action Battalion in Rajapur upazila of the district on Monday.

Local criminal Ibrahim Hawlader intercepted Limon on Chhaturia-Idurbhari road when he was returning to his rented house at Kaukhali upazila of Pirojpur around 5:30pm after celebrating Eid with his family members, reports our Barisal correspondent, quoting Limon?s elder brother Sumon Hossain.

Continue reading “RAB victim Limon attacked again”