Kalpana Chakma, a young leader of the Bangladeshi Hill Women?s Federation, was abducted from her home by military personnel and civilian law enforcers at gunpoint on 12 June 1996. She remains missing. Through this work, part of Drik?s ?No More? campaign, photographer?Shahidul Alam?has tried to break a silence that successive governments, whether civilian or military backed, have carefully nurtured. The exhibition uses laser etching on straw mats, an innovative technique developed specifically for this exhibition. The process involved in creating these images is rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Interviewees had repeatedly talked of the bareness of Kalpana?s home. That there was no furniture. That Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat. The straw mats were burned by a laser beam much as the fire that had engulfed the pahari villages.
Shilpakala Award recipient Shahidul Alam, set up Drik and Majority World agencies, Pathshala South Asian Media Institute and Chobi Mela festival. Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photography Society and visiting professor at Sunderland University. Alam has chaired the World Press Photo jury. Alam also introduced email to Bangladesh. His book my journey as a witness has been described as ?the most important book ever written by a photographer? by legendary picture editor of?Life Magazine, John Morris. He is an internationally acclaimed public speaker and has presented at Hollywood, National Geographic, re:publica, COP21 and POP Tech.
Buzz in Town
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. 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.
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.
Tired 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.
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.
Activism 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.?
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.
Drik 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.
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.
See as slideshare
All credits and supplementary text available in Flickr page
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.
LOOKING at this photograph, one of the few in our library where the photographer is unknown, I realise how times have changed. This is the undisputed leader of a country with his arms across the shoulder of a newspaper photographer not known for being affiliated to his party.
No security guards, no party goons, no chamchas. Both men are at ease with the situation. The smiles, the casual gait, Rashid Bhai with his camera dangling, a single prime lens. Not even a camera bag (and this was the time of film when you only had 36 exposures). How times have changed. Sure, we live in a more security conscious world, but the distance between the leaders of today, and the people, isn?t simply about changed situations, it is about changed attitudes. Today the proximity between leaders and the people surrounding them has much more to do with business and benefits, than with humility and largesse. There was much more give and much less take. Continue reading “The Statesman, and the Photographer”
In the cool interior of a mental ward in Karachi, a short, powerfully built man with a flowing snow-white beard and penetrating dark-brown eyes is standing at the bedside of a distraught young woman. She has covered her head with a sheet and is pleading for news of the two children her husband took from her.
?I know you are suffering terribly, but this is no way to bring back your children,? says the man with stern compassion. ?You have a college degree. You can do many things to help the other patients.?
More photos on flickr: Continue reading “Humanitarian to a nation”
Bentleys and Benefits is a unique exhibition at?Rich Mix?capturing the story and social diversity of the East End through the eyes of the young people who live here. The exhibition brings together the outcomes of ?Demystifying Photography?, a series of photography workshops, by?Drik Picture Library, Dhaka in collaboration with?Rich Mix?and?Morpeth School.
Five workshops between October 2014 and June 2015 were conceived to offer the youth of East London an opportunity to work with?Shahidul Alam, founder of?Drik?and world-renowned photographer, writer and activist from Bangladesh, and learn how to use digital technology to capture a memorable image by using key elements of story telling. By exploring emotion and perspective, and studying qualitative shifts between first person and third person narratives,?Alam?introduces the often-neglected sphere of visual literacy.
The photographers, all sixth form students at?Morpeth school, have been working closely with?Alam, to develop their own voice through photography; resulting in an intimate, compassionate and inclusive dialogue shaped by their experiences of life in Bethnal Green. The result is a photographic journey through the financial and social landscape of this extraordinary area of London.
Photographers: Arshad Ali, Fahim Ali, Halima Khanom, Mohammad Nahid Zakaria, Mohammad Zackariyya Ullah, Zayn Ali, Yusuf Saib?(Morpeth school)
Workshop Leader:?Shahidul Alam?(Drik)
Text: Mohammad Zackariyya Ullah (Morpeth school), Mary George (Drik)
Flyer Design: Yusuf Saib?(Morpeth school)
Logo Design: Yusuf Saib?(Morpeth school)
Social Media: Halima Khanom, Mohammad Zackariyya Ullah, Arshad Ali?(Morpeth school)
Fundraising: Zayn Ali, Mohammad Nahid Zakaria (Morpeth school), Mary George (Drik)
Coordinators: Matthew Keil and Sam French (Morpeth school), Mary George (Drik)
Project Management: Saiful Islam (Drik)
Prints proudly supported by?theprintspace.
Remarkable: Noam Chomsky
Absolutely stunning: Jess Worth. New Internationalist Magazine (Oxford)
We had a fabulous opening with moving recitation of Kabita Chakma’s poem “I will defy” by Aungmakhai Chak, Marium Rupa and Rahnuma Ahmed. Many of the warriors were present in person. We were sad to miss Saydia Gulrukh, but her presence was felt.
I will resist, I shall defy
Will you do as you please?
You turned my home into sand
It was a forest where I stand
You made daylight go dark
Left it barren never a spark
I will resist. I shall defy
You strip me of my land
On my women, your hand
No longer shall I see
No longer will I be
Abandon, neglect, rage
A throbbing womb, my stage
I curl, I tear asunder
Awake, I search, I wander
I am who I am
And I will resist
I shall defy
Poem by Kabita Chakma
Translation by Shahidul Alam
Thanks to Arshad Jamal and Chris Riley for their support and Mohammad Mohsin Miah for helping with the printing. ASM Rezaur Rahman curated the show and the entire teams from Drik’s Publication, Gallery, Photography and Audio Visual Department as well as the volunteers from Pathshala did a wonderful job. We shall resist and we will continue to defy.
Opening of #kalpanaswarriors at #Drik gallery #dhaka #dhanmondi #photography #bangladesh #cht #rights A photo posted by Shahidul Alam (@shahidul001) on
An exhibition by Metaceptive Projects + Media
5th June ? 5th July 2015 across five venues in Durham, UK
Introductory description from the curator and artistic director, Kooj Chuhan
International artists, researchers, communities and local activists are combining forces using art to push climate change up the agenda in a ground-breaking exhibition titled Footprint Modulation. The exhibition focuses on the massive and increasing impact that climate change will have on humans by forcing us to abandon our homes and migrate. The renowned, award-winning Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam presents work for the first time in the North East. Platform based in London use film and performance to highlight the corruption within global oil. A number of UK-based artists from diverse backgrounds provoke us to connect with human realities in other countries. The New York based architecture and digital art company Diller Scofidio + Renfro present a film commissioned by the Cartier Foundation to artistically re-interpret data about climate migration.
Continue reading “Footprint Modulation: art, climate and displacement”
Remarkable: Noam Chomsky
Absolutely stunning: Jess Worth. New Internationalist Magazine (Oxford)
They told me you were quiet. But I felt the rage in your silence. That when you spoke, they rose above themselves. But I felt their fear. That they held you amidst them. But I felt their loneliness. They pointed to the Koroi tree where you would all meet. The banyan tree under which you spoke. Ever so powerfully. They pointed to the mud floor, where you slept. I touched the mat that you had rested upon, and I knew I had found the vessel that must hold your image.
They had tried to erase you, your people, your memory. They had torched your homes and when coercion failed, when you remained defiant, they took you away, in the dead of night.
The leaves burned as the soldiers stood and watched. The same leaves they weave to make your mat. The same leaves I shall burn, to etch your image. Will the burning mat hold your pain? Will the charred leaves hold your anger? Will the image rising from the crisp ashen leaves reignite us? Will you return Kalpana?
For nineteen years I have waited, my unseen sister. For nineteen years they have waited, your warriors. Pahari, Bangali, men, women, young old. Was it what you said? What you stood for? Was it because you could see beyond the land, and language, the shape of one?s eyes and see what it meant to be a citizen of a free nation? For pahari, bangali, bihari, man, woman, hijra, rich, poor, destitute, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Animist.
You had reminded us that a nation that fought oppression, could not rule by oppressing. That a people that fought for a language, could not triumph by suppressing another?s. That the martyrs who died, so we might be free, did not shed their blood, so we could become tyrants. That we who overcame the bullets and bayonets of soldiers, must never again be ruled through the barrel of a gun.
That Kalpana is what binds us. That is why Kalpana, you are not a pahari, or a woman or a chakma or a buddhist, but each one of us. For there can be no freedom that is built on the pain of the other. No friendship that relies on fear. No peace at the muzzle of a gun.
These Kalpana are your warriors. They have engaged in different ways, at different levels, sometimes with different beliefs. Some have stayed with you from the beginning. Others have drifted. They have not always shared political beliefs. But for you Kalpana, my unseen sister, they fight as one.
The process involved in creating these images are rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Repeatedly, the interviewees talked of the bareness of Kalpana?s home. That there was no furniture, that Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat.
Sadia Marium making prints for my upcoming show on Kalpana Chakma #justiceforkalpana #eavig #CHT #military #bangladesh #rights #photography
A photo posted by Shahidul Alam (@shahidul001) on
Rather than print on conventional photographic media, we decided we would use material that was part of pahari daily lives. The straw mat became our canvas. The fire that had been used to raze pahari homes, also needed to be represented, so a laser beam was used to burn the straw, etching with flames, the images of rebellion.
It was the politics of this interaction that determined the physicality of the process. The laser beam consisted of a binary pulse. A binary present on our politics. In order to render the image, the image had to be converted in various ways. From RGB to Greyscale to Bitmap, from 16 bit to 8 bit to 1 bit. To keep detail in the skin tone despite the high contrast, the red channel needed to be enhanced. The Resolution and intensity and duration of the laser beam needed to be brought down to levels that resulted in the straw being selectively charred but not burnt to cinders.
A screen ruling that separated charred pixels while maintaining gradation had to be carefully selected. And then, working backwards, a lighting mechanism needed to be found that broke up the image into a discrete grid of light and dark tones, providing the contrast, the segmentation and the gradation, necessary to simulate the entire range of tones one expects in a fine print. This combination of lighting, digital rendering, printing technique and choice of medium, has led to the unique one off prints you see in this exhibition. A tribute to a unique woman that had walked among us.
|IDLO Photo Exhibition in Rome
Farnesina Porte Aperte 2015
22 – 29 May 2015
|IDLO’s photo exhibition “In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda” will form part of this year’s initiative by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to open its doors to the general public. From 22 until 29 May 2015, visitors will be able to participate in “Farnesina Porte Aperte” and view the exhibition during guided tours of the building. The Farnesina’s art collection is internationally recognized, and IDLO is proud to have been chosen to exhibit alongside this.|
The photographs were also featured by The Guardian.
|Curated by IDLO and the photo agency Majority World, the exhibition focuses on the challenges of development and the rule of law. From gender equality and indigenous rights to energy poverty and land tenure, it presents the rule of law as lived experience. The pictures vividly explore the human side of the rule of law and its importance in everyday life.
?In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda? illustrates these themes through 32 images – taken by photographers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, India and Kenya – ranging from the Amazonian settlement of Colniza, Brazil, where rule of law measures have reversed illegal logging and deforestation, to the energy-starved metropolis of Kibera, Africa?s largest slum.
To sign up for a guided tour, please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation?s Farnesina Porte Aperte website and choose the ?art route?, currently available from Monday 25 until Wednesday 27 May.
Before traveling to Rome, the exhibition was shown at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, to coincide with the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Over the coming months, it will be shown in Milan, New York, Washington and The Hague, and will return to Rome for an exclusive viewing in November.
|For more information, please read this article in Italy’s Corriere della Sera,?visit theIDLO mini-site and watch video interviews?with the photographers.|