London launch: My journey as a witness

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Book Launch: Organised by Candlestar

We invite you to the official UK book launch of ‘My Journey as a Witness’,?a book of images by celebrated photographer?Shahidul Alam.
An extraordinary artist, Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, activist, and social entrepreneur who uses his art to chronicle the social and artistic struggles.
Lucid and personal, this much-awaited book includes over 100 photographs tracing Alam?s artistic career, activism, and the founding of photography organisations. From early images shot in England to photographs of the last two decades in his native Bangladesh, this is a journey from photojournalism into social justice. Alam?s superb imagery is matched by his perceptive accounts that are at once deeply intimate and bitingly satirical.
Supported by the Bengal Foundation and published by Skira Editore there will be a short film and brief talks by the author, editor and sponsor accompanied by a book signing.
Date and Venue:
5.30 – 7.30pm Monday 10th October 2011
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill
Library Room
30 Portman Square,
London, W1H 7BH
Due to limited numbers please RSVP by Thursday 6th October RSVP to?[email protected]

My Journey as a Witness

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Shahidul Alam: My Journey as a Witness

Edited by Rosa Maria Falvo

  • September 23, 2011
  • Hardcover
  • Photography – Individual Photographer
  • Skira
  • 9-1/2 x 11
  • $50.00
  • $57.00
  • 978-88-572-0966-1

About This Book

An insight into the evolution of one of the most significant movements in contemporary photography, through the eyes and voice of the man who shaped it. An extraordinary artist, Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, activist, and social entrepreneur who used his art to chronicle the social and artistic struggles in a country known largely for poverty and disasters.
Lucid and personal, this much-awaited book includes over 100 photographs tracing Alam?s artistic career, activism, and the founding of photography organizations. From early images shot in England to photographs of the last two decades in his native Bangladesh, this is a journey from photojournalism into social justice. Alam?s superb imagery is matched by his perceptive accounts, at once deeply intimate and bitingly satirical.

About the Author

Shahidul Alam, profoundly influenced by inequality in his native Bangladesh and The Liberation War, pursued a life in photography to challenge oppression and imperialism in all its forms. Attacked, arrested, and threatened with death, Alam built what many consider to be the finest photography school in the world, an award-winning agency, and the world?s most diverse photography festival. Widely celebrated, Alam claims as his achievements not the awards and exhibitions but the people he has trained and the lives he has transformed.?Rosa Maria Falvo is a writer and curator, and Skira?s international commissions editor, specializing in Asian contemporary art.
Introductions by:
Sebasti?o Salgado
Shahidul has managed to create a community, giving it a framework and creating links, as he has already done in Bangladesh. This is not merely another virtual community, like so many others, which have undoubtedly demonstrated their utility, but a truly concrete ensemble, which is a composite of all generations attached to their native soil, who share a much vaster territory than that of any one country. The territory I speak of is, of course, the photographic world of Shahidul Alam, which is also mine, as well as each and every one of ours. A world where we can daily sense our conscience and our faith in our planet.
and
Raghu Rai
In India we have many more photographers, some of them very good, and there are many galleries for art and especially photography. As well as reputed newspapers and magazines ? much is happening on many levels. But we don?t have a Shahidul Alam, who can combine them into a cohesive social and creative force.
The book was launched in Dhaka on the 23rd September 2011
The touring version on the exhibition will open at the Wilmotte Gallery (formerly Patrick Litchfield’s studio) in London on the 6th October 2011
The London launch (Grand Hyatt Churchill) will take place on the 10th October 2011
The New Delhi launch (Habitat Centre) will take place on the 15th October 2011
The New York launch (Rizolli Book Store) is on the 10th November 2011
A trailer for the book:

Long March: more images

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Bangladeshi citizens began a long march from Dhaka to Dinajpur to protect the country's natural resources. The march began at Muktangon in Dhaka with a rally and the first day ended in Ghazipur with a cultural programme. People joined along the way. The march will end with a rally at Phulbaria in Dinajpur on the 30th October 2010. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Volunteers arranged lunch for the marchers along the way. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The shops start early in preparation for the visitors. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The first campaigners arrive. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The first busload arrives. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The first activists coming in armed with posters. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Slogans being painted. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Signage. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Marchers march in. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

By afternoon many have gathered from all over the country. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Ordinary people from all walks of life. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Including many women. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Professor Anu Muhammad, a key speaker. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

And labour leader Mushrefa Mishu. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Speeches and cultural programmes go on late into the night. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Poet Arup Rahee with friend. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Catching up before heading back home. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Homeward bound. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Related link:

Long March

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Day One

Dhaka to Gazipur

Bangladeshi citizens began a long march from Dhaka to Dinajpur to protect the country’s natural resources. The march began at Muktangon in Dhaka with a rally and the first day ended in Gazipur with a cultural programme. People joined along the way. The march will end with a rally at Phulbaria in Dinajpur on the 30th October 2010

Latest update from Taslima Akhtar: 9:43 am. 25th Oct 2010: Rally now headed for Tangail District. Via Konabari and Chondra.
Update from Taslima Akhtar: 12:01 pm 26th October 2010: Rally left Sirajgonj, heading to Bogram via Hotikimrun and Gurkha Point. Stopping soon for lunch.
Long March leaving Sherpur for Bogra Shodor. Source Taslima Akhter 16:35 pm. 26th Oct 2010
Arrived at Bogra. Public Meetings. Overnight in Bogra: Source Taslima Akhter 19:48 pm. 26th Oct 2010
Heading 2 Mahasthangar, St. rally n Mokomtola upazila. lunch @ Gobindogonj then 2ward Gaibandha: Source Taslima Akhter 11:58 am 27/10/2010
Arrived in Gaibandha. Source Taslima Akhter 14:35 pm 29/10/2010
Left Gaibandha for Rangpur at 10:00 am. Will be passing through Sadallahpur and Madargonj upozilas before stopping at Peergonj where we will have lunch at noon: Taslima Akhter 11:42 am 28/10.2010
Left Rangpur. Expect to arrive in Sayedpur around noon via Paglapeer and Taragonj. Numbers steadily growing as more people join the procession: Taslima Akhter 10:49 29th October 2010

Concert along the way. Long March. Photo: Taslima Akhter

More recent photos by Taslima Akhter of Long March

]
- The Long March of the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas and Power-Port. reached Bogra on Tuesday. The committee started their Long March to Phulbari Coal Mine in Dinajpur from Dhaka on October 24 to press home its 7-point demand. The demands include expulsion of Asia Energy from Bangladesh and cancel its deal with the government on Phulbari coal mine. The March reached Dinajpur on October 30. Bogra, Bangladesh. October 27, 2010 ? Mahabub Alam Khan/DrikNews

Garment worker leader Moshrefa Mishu amongst many other leaders who attended the rally. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World


Towards the beginning of the march as it goes past the secretariat. Paltan. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The March as it goes through Shantinagar in Dhaka. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The Long March makes its way through Dhaka city. At Moghbazaar before turning toward Rampura. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Others join the group as it goes through Tejgaon. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Construction workers looking on. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Part of the march was by bus, with rooftops used as there were too many people. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Vegetable Khichuri for lunch. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Many others join in Gazipur where an evening cultural programme is also held, before more speeches. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Onlookers trying to get a peek at the stage. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World


Traces of Absence

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An exhibition of photographs by Shahidul Alam

There is a wall running along a street. The writing on it is fragmented and cannot quite be made sense of. The image was taken in the middle of the night and a yellow glare was allowed to invade the site, as the wall slipped away at an angle. A shadowy presence barely registered on the shot. This urban setting, one is tempted to say, could be nothing but the scene of a crime. The sinister, uneasy beauty of this work by Shahidul Alam informs other images that are part of his new series, again and again. Others are eerie, otherworldly; and others still, seem familiar yet are anguished, as if the common ground for existence was being subtracted from the picture altogether.
Photography is usually taken at face value and recognized as the construction of a factual world, and celebrated as such, for facts possess a no-nonsense value – or so we would like to believe – that will hopefully help us to get things crystal-clear in the mind. The printed image is envisaged and expected, by the many who support this view, to be self-evident, and self-explanatory, too.
To transform photography into the art of tracing an absence is not a method that is self-evident, and yet a case can be made for it: the print, which is an image on its physical support, is one more object added to the world and is often made to stand for what once was, never to be fixed or grasped in the same manner again. But in the images of this series, what is it we are missing that fills us with anxiety of some kind or another? When acutely perceived, an absence stops us in our speech, it wracks and unnerves us; it unsettles the mind. Absence, as a matter of fact, can be identified, can be lingered on and felt, but cannot be quantified and any attempts at giving a qualified description of the feelings involved are bound to fail.
Whatever one is led to believe should be expected of contemporary photographic work in the documentary mode, this series challenges starkly. Artificial lighting has been used throughout and its effect is not just strange but painful. The series offers no narrative to behold but the images hold together, perhaps because their author finds different ways to remind us that we will not find a place to rest our heads in them. These are nocturnal viewings in a sleepless night.
Jorge Villacorta
Curator
More at:
New York Times Review
Photo District News
Rights Exposure Review
Front Page Manob Jomin (Bangla)
Ex Ponto Magazine Netherlands
Lawyers protest

No tax on words

Elections are a big thing in Bangladesh. Going back to his village at peak season was an expensive option for my neighourhood fruit seller, Siddique Ali. The election wasn’t so critical in his case, as his candidate was going to get elected virtually unopposed. But he was going to vote all the same.


My workaholic colleague Delower Hossain had also taken leave, not only to vote but to campaign for his candidate. Our electrician was working late into the night so he could get to Dinajpur in time. He too faced a one-sided election, but wasn’t going to take chances.
An Awami League Supporter at Sheikh Hasina's pre-election speech at Paltan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 26th December 2008. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
An Awami League Supporter at Sheikh Hasina's pre-election speech at Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 26th December 2008. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The euphoria in the streets was contagious. It felt good to be milling with the crowds. The smell of the street had its own magic. Contrary to the usual political rallies, These were not filled with hired crowd fillers or party goons, but people who genuinely loved their party and their leader.

Siddique Ali and Delower, like so many other ordinary Bangladeshis, were hard working, honest and politically astute. When I asked Siddique how well his candidate Shahjahan had done in his previous term, he gave a pragmatic answer. “He was an Awami League MP in a BNP government. You can’t expect him to achieve much.” Still, millions like Siddique and Delower voted. Still, they believed in the power of the people.
The security around the two main leaders, particularly Sheikh Hasina was extremely tight. There have been several assassination attemps on the ex prime minister. Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. The 26th December 2008.
The security around the two main leaders, particularly Sheikh Hasina was extremely tight. There have been several assassination attemps on the ex prime minister. Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. The 26th December 2008. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Parking my bicycle near the stadium I followed the crowd into Paltan. There were hundreds of policemen along the way, and everyone was being checked. My camera jacket and my dangling camera allowed me to get through several of the checks, but I did get stopped and politely asked to show the contents of my camera bag. There wasn’t the rudeness that greets one at a western airport, but they were making sure. Times had changed.
In the beginning there was light. One of the climactic moments from Begum Khaleda Zia's victorious election campaign in 1991. Hope burgeons as Bangladesh launches into a rare free and fair election. The latest in a series of military-backed dictators, Hussain Mohammad Ershad, had finally been ousted two months before following an intensive three-year campaign for democracy.
In the beginning there was light. One of the climactic moments from Begum Khaleda Zia's victorious election campaign in 1991. Hope burgeons as Bangladesh launches into a rare free and fair election. The latest in a series of military-backed dictators, Hussain Mohammad Ershad, had finally been ousted two months before following an intensive three-year campaign for democracy. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

I remembered crowding around Hasina and Khaleda during the 1991 campaigns. Ershad had just been removed and there was hope in the air. Whoever won, we would have democracy. At least that was what we felt then

As another military government was stepping down, I knew too well, that this elected government was unlikely to yield democracy outright. The young man with Hasina painted on his chest reminded me of Noor Hossain, the worker killed by Ershad’s police, because he had wanted “Democracy to be Freed”. I remembered that the autocratic general Ershad was back, an ally of the Awami League. And the party made up of war criminals, Jamaat, was on course, an ally of BNP.
Mural of Noor Hossain painted in the campus of Jahangirnagar University in Savar. Bangladesh. 1987.
Mural of Noor Hossain painted in the campus of Jahangirnagar University in Savar. Bangladesh. 1987.? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Reminiscent of Noor Hossain, the young worker killed by police bullets on the 10th November 1987, during the movement to bring down General Ershad.
Reminiscent of Noor Hossain, the young worker killed by police bullets on the 10th November 1987, during the movement to bring down General Ershad. He had painted on his back "Let Democracy be Freed". ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

One could have predicted Hasina’s speech. There was not an iota of remorse. Not the slightest admission of wrong-doing. With the arrogance that has become her hallmark, she glorified her previous rule, and villified her opponent. And went on to insult the intelligence of the crowd by promising that every young man and woman would be given a job.

Through her proposed Internet revolution, no villager would ever again need to go to the city. The complete eradication of poverty was thrown in for good measure. The saying in Bangla ‘kothar upor tax nai’ “there is no tax on words” could not have been more apt.
Khaleda Zia at her pre-election speech in Paltan Maidan, chose not to go behind a bullet proof glass while addressing the rally. 27th December 2008. Dhaka. Bangladesh.
Khaleda Zia at her pre-election speech in Paltan Maidan, chose not to go behind a bullet proof glass while addressing the rally. 27th December 2008. Dhaka. Bangladesh. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Khaleda, the following day, had done no less. Her promise of leaving no family homeless, was perhaps less extreme than the promise of a job for every youth, but it was still sheer hype. She too promised the magic of the computer, which apparently, could solve all problems. Having overseen the most corrupt five years of Bangladesh’s history.

Having had her second attempt at a rigged election derailed by a fighting opposition and a defiant public, she spoke of how, if voted into power, she would shape a corruption free Bangladesh! Bypassing the most blatant misdeeds of her sons and their cronies, she spoke of the ill deeds of her opponents. The master vote-stealer even warned of vote stealing. There was perhaps one significant difference between the two. Khaleda did acknowledge that perhaps some mistakes might have been made, and if so, apologised for them. Even such half admissions of blatant misdeeds, is a landmark in Bangladeshi politics.
Apart from briefly emerging above the bullet proof glass, Sheikh Hasina chose to shelter behind her see-through armour during the rally at Paltan Maidan on the 26th December 2008. Dhaka. Bangladesh. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Apart from briefly emerging above the bullet proof glass, Sheikh Hasina chose to shelter behind her see-through armour during the rally at Paltan Maidan on the 26th December 2008. Dhaka. Bangladesh. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The security was less stringent for Khaleda, and I was able to get to the inner corral without being frisked or having my camera bag checked. Significantly, she chose not to use the bullet proof glass that had protected Hasina the day before. I had been surprised by the lack of women at Hasina’s rally, where I estimated less than a thousand women had gathered.
At Khaleda’s a rough head count yielded figures well below one fifty. Predictably however, there were many white capped men, and the yellow head bands of Jamaat’s militant student wing Shibir. Her’s was a more jubilant crowd, with slogans and chanting going on right through the rally, even during her speech. In comparison, Hasina’s rally had been a more reserved affair. Perhaps an indication of Khaleda’s younger following.
Many people recorded the speeches of their leaders and took videos of the rallies using mobile phones. By Dhaka Stadium. 27th December 2008. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Many people recorded the speeches of their leaders and took videos of the rallies using mobile phones. By Dhaka Stadium. 27th December 2008. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

They had plenty of ammunition. Hasina reminded voters of the foreign bank accounts of Khaleda’s sons, and that the BNP had teamed up with war criminals. Khaleda reminded them of the one party rule of BAKSHAL, and the irony of Hasina’s statement that the partners of autocrats were traitors to the nation. Despite Khaleda’s tangential reference to ‘possible mistakes’, neither leader made any direct admission to any of the misdeeds that had ravaged the nation.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was part of the security team at Paltan during the pre-election rallies. RAB is believed to have been responsible for over 300 extra judicial killings over the last two and a half years. Dhaka. Bangladesh. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was part of the security team at Paltan during the pre-election rallies. RAB is believed to have been responsible for over 300 extra judicial killings over the last two and a half years. Dhaka. Bangladesh. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

I felt insulted and humiliated. But I could not deny, that both leaders had their followers. Many of the people in the crowd did love them dearly, though there was little evidence to suggest that their leaders deserved, or respected this unrequited love.
Members of Chatro Shibir, the militant student wing of Jamaat e Islam, an ally of the BNP lead coalition. Jamaat is accused of harbouring war criminals of the 1971 war of liberation. Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 27th December 2008. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Members of Chatro Shibir, the militant student wing of Jamaat e Islam, an ally of the BNP lead coalition. Jamaat is accused of harbouring war criminals of the 1971 war of liberation. Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 27th December 2008. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

So why this great longing for an elected government? Why this great love for undeserving leaders? An election offers the one hope for a disenfranchised public to be heard. They cling on to these unlikely champions of democracy as their only real hope for a system of governance that may eventually value their will.
BNP supporters climb a tree to get a better view of their leader Khaleda Zia. Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 27th December 2008. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
BNP supporters climb a tree to get a better view of their leader Khaleda Zia. Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 27th December 2008. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Hopefully the misadventures over the last two years has taught the military that the Bangladeshi public is a tough nut to crack. Even these two arrogant leaders face a more robust media and a more questioning public than they’ve been used to. Delower and Siddique Ali might not get the democracy they deserve, but their love for democracy, will eventually force a change.
Relatively few women attended the pre-election rally of Khaleda Zia. The female attendance at Sheikh Hasina's rally the earlier day, while larger than at Khaleda's was still low. Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Relatively few women attended the pre-election rally of Khaleda Zia. The female attendance at Sheikh Hasina's rally the earlier day, while larger than at Khaleda's was still low. Paltan Maidan. Dhaka. Bangladesh. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

More election pictures at DrikNews.
Current election photos from www.driknews.com
Current election photos from www.driknews.com

Venturing Into The Impossible

” Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Sir Arthur C Clarke?(16 December 1917?? 19 March 2008)
“Oh you are going to take pictures? Let me put on my sincere smile. Don’t manage it all the time.” He chuckled, as he stroked his belly. I should have been awed by a man who had propagated the idea of the geostationary satellite. Arthur C Clarke was the author of one of the most significant books on science fiction, and has inspired the names of lost dinosaurs and spacecraft. I had not been sure what to expect. But he quickly put me at ease. “I’ll protect you from Pepsi.” He said, stroking the Chihuahua that curled up on his lap. “He fought a hound.”
arthur-c-clarke-bw-2482.jpg
Sir Arthur C Clarke who died early morning on the 19th March 2008 at a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he had lived since the 1950s. ? 2001. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Continue reading “Venturing Into The Impossible”

A State of Danger

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The material that follows has been provided by the?New Internationalist



A STATE OF DANGER

This is?Shahidul Alam’s inside story, in words and pictures, of the intense struggle against repression which has been raging in Bangladesh, unnoticed by the Western media. Resistance work there is dangerous – photographers and journalists are regularly attacked and arrested.



In the beginning there was light. One of the climactic moments from Begum Khaleda Zia’s victorious election campaign in 1991. Hope burgeons as Bangladesh launches into a rare free and fair election. The latest in a series of military-backed dictators, Hussain Mohammad Ershad, had finally been ousted two months before following an intensive three-year campaign for democracy.

But the optimism is short-lived. Demonstrators take to the streets when the Government allies with the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islam, whose leaders aided the Pakistani Army’s genocide of Bangladeshis in 1971. Under the watchful eye of authority, children of that war’s martyrs demand the trial of the war criminals.

Women feel they have most to lose if the Islamic fundamentalists gain ground. On International Women’s Day in 1994 Shamima Nazneed enacts a play by Tagore (Stri’r Potro, ‘The Wife’s Letter’) which shows the oppressive influence of the family.

The Government becomes increasingly repressive and starts to rig by-elections, leading all opposition parties to resign from Parliament. A general election is called and there is a brutal clampdown on dissent. This student is arrested on 31 January 1996 in a police swoop on a mainly Hindu hall of Dhaka University – he screams out to friends from the prison van.

Resistance hits the streets.

The opposition boycott of the election is complete: polling stations stand idle. Yet the Government reports a huge turnout of voters and a landslide victory. The contrast with the last election is painful as heavy security cordons guard Khaleda Zia while she addresses her followers. She is just visible over their shoulders in the centre, aloof and distant heir to an autocratic tradition.