My Journey as a Witness

Subscribe to ShahidulNews

Share

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:

Majority World Agency poised for lift off

London, 16th March 2011.

MAJORITY WORLD?, the socially responsible image agency, announces major expansion plan at ?Responsible Business?, Business Design Centre, London, 17-18 March 2011 Inspiring images, responsibly sourced MAJORITY WORLD? is a picture agency with a difference. It promotes the work of talented local photographers in the majority world ? Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East – enabling them to gain a fairer share of the global image market. Their work is often overlooked through inadequate access to global markets, or when organisations fly in western photographers for assignments rather than choosing to use and nurture local talent. It will also increasingly reveal the unique insider perspective that comes from local photographers? images and stories. Hence its wider mission to ?open doors and open minds?. MAJORITY WORLD? is pleased to announce that it has secured vital new start up investment from Stichting DOEN in the Netherlands as well as from two of its founder directors. As a result of this vote of confidence, MAJORITY WORLD? can now embark on its ambitious expansion plan. A new full time team will provide the expertise and dynamism needed to boost revenue growth, which in turn translates directly into increasing flows of commission funds into majority world economies. MAJORITY WORLD? is registered in the UK as a Community Interest Company. Talking of its socially responsible brand, Ben Marshall, Creative Director, Landor Associates, worldwide branding & design consultants confirms, ?The global potential of the MAJORITY WORLD? brand is massive.? Dr. Colin Hastings, Co-founder of MAJORITY WORLD?, speaks of the opportunities the organisation?s new investment can realise. ?We are much more than a photo library; we are a cause. To date we have been refining and testing our business model and our social impact. Now we can actually make it happen? Dr Shahidul Alam, Co-Founder, Chairman and International Ambassador, will also be speaking at the event on 18th March, 11.00 ? 11.30. The title of his presentation is ?Behaving responsibly towards the developing world: the secrets of successful north/south partnerships?. The MAJORITY WORLD? founders will be at the exhibition to explain their innovative approach which helps photographic entrepreneurs in the majority world to build sustainable businesses whilst creating new added value opportunities for CSR professionals in the minority world. To understand the full picture: ? Visit MAJORITY WORLD? on stand 126 at Responsible Business 2011, Business Design Centre, London, 17 ? 18 March 2011. ? Visit www.majorityworld.com ? For interviews with Shahidul Alam or Colin Hastings, contact Clare Puddifoot +44(0)7876553879. – ENDS – Dr Colin Hastings www.majorityworld.com/ Visit Majority World on stand 126 at Responsible Business 2011 www.responsiblebusinessevent.org/

Kalpana's Family: Living Under State Surveillance

Subscribe to ShahidulNews



Share/Bookmark


by Saydia Gulrukh

?Do the words of all witnesses count equally?? asks Kalpana Chakma?s brother Kalicharan Chakma. He brings out his diary as he talks to me and says, ?I have learned from the tragic mistake that I need to keep a record of every encounter that we have with the military, the BDR. Our words do not count.?

Kalpana Chalma at a rally in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Unknown photographer

I was talking to him after a public gathering at Baghaichari, Rangamati, organised by the Hill Women?s Federation, on the thirteenth anniversary of her abduction, June 12, 2009.
Kalicharan Chakma flipped through his notebook and told me of the countless number of times either he had to visit the zone commander, or the latter paid him a visit at his house. He read out, June 27, 2000, Marisya Zone commander came to our house. And then, these dates, July 26, 2000. August 2, 2005. July 3, 2006. July 26, 2006. Baghaichari Thana, Ughalchari Camp, and then Baghaichari Thana.
It was a routine that continued at uneven intervals. BDR members too would stop him in the bazaar (market). Harassment was at its worst in 2008, he said, after newspaper articles on Kalpana Chakma had been published. New Age, June 12, 2008. Star Magazine, June 20, 2008. After the public meeting in Dhaka. His family had to spend many sleepless nights.
Kalpana Chakma

July 3, 2008. July 8, 2008. July 11, 2008. August 11, 2008. August 15, 2008, he read out more dates. Major Iqbal and Subedar Shahjahan along with some BDR jawans came to our house. They were looking for Kalicharan Chakma, they said. We have information, Kalpana is in India. We?ll give you money to bring her home. Kalpana?s brother Ajeet Chakma was reluctant to accept the Tk 3,000 but he was afraid to refuse. With pain and anger in his eyes, he asks, ?What kind of harassment is this? It has been more than a decade, we don?t know what happened to our sister. We are the victims of a crime, we were standing in the water with her when they fired on us. I saw Lt Ferdous with my own eyes, I saw VDP members Saleh Ahmed and Nurul Huq. I see them walking around everyday in Bangali Para. Nobody ever interrogates them.? Voice choked in anger, he paused, then went on, ?At Baghaichari thana on August 15, 2008, the police officer accused me of defaming the Bangladesh military. They accused me of hiding Kalpana in India. I asked him, if you know so well that she is in India, why don?t you arrange for her return? But they got angry when I asked these questions, we are not supposed to raise our voices, we are merely Chakma, we are merely tribal people.?
Kalpana Chakma?s sister-in-law told me it?s not only BDR and police surveillance (nojordari). There are other things, too. After the BDR mutiny (February 25-26, 2009), rumours flew that Lt. Ferdous, the government had spun tales that she had eloped with him, now, rumour had it, that he was killed in the mutiny, Kalpana is now widowed with two children. Her sister-in-law asks me, who on earth spreads such rumours? What do they gain? I also listened to the tremendous social pressure that her family has been facing for the last two years, to perform the last rituals for Kalpana. Her brother says, they think that if they can get me to perform dharma for Kalpana, the government can use that as a reason to close the case.
Others, Kalpana?s neighbours, who had accompanied Kalicharan Chakma to the army camp, and to Baghaichari Thana, requested me to leave out their names, they had witnessed the argument that had taken place between Lt Ferdous and Kalpana in 1996, but they were afraid. After all, they have seen at close quarters what life has been like for Kalpana?s family for the last 14 years. Constant state surveillance.
In Road To Democracy, a private TV channel?s popular talk show (August 18, 2009), Dr Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, an Awami League presidium member, who also had played a central role in negotiating and signing the Peace Treaty, let the cat out of the bag. While discussing the ethnic conflict in the CHT, he publicly acknowledged that Kalpana Chakma had been abducted by a lieutenant of the Bangladesh Army.
The government can no longer look the other way. We demand that the whole truth be made public. And that the harassment and surveillance of Kalpana?s family members should cease.
Saydia Gulrukh is a PhD student in anthropology at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), USA.
Published in New Age

Give photography a chance

Subscribe to ShahidulNews

Share/Bookmark

By Giedre Steikunaite

Fish ??Partha Sarathi Sahana/Majority World

A photograph?s story is not only the one told in the image. Who took a picture, and why, also matters. Now who takes pictures of the developing world, and why?
?The vast majority of the published images that we see of the developing world are taken by predominantly white, predominantly male photographers from the ?north? or the ?west? (whichever language you use) and we think a) that this is unfair and b) that it leads to a distorted view lacking balance. The distorted view is intrinsically dangerous as it perpetuates stereotypes,? said Dr Colin Hastings, responsible for strategy and financing at?Majority World, in an interview with?igenius.
How about giving Majority World photographers a chance to represent the world they live in themselves?
Majority World, a global initiative set up to provide a platform for indigenous photographers from the Majority World to gain fair access to global image markets, is in its third year. Their?online library contains loads of photographs, both individual and featured, ranging from Adolphus Opara?s?Slum Aspirations to Aaron Sosa?s?Daily Havana to Saikat Ranjan Bhadra?s?Grey Reality. The idea is to shift the current practice of the global North photographing the global South and allowing the South to do it itself.
Photographers in the developing countries face numerous challenges. At first it was said that they don?t exist, then that they ?don?t have the eye?. But apart from these prejudices, there are serious problems photographers have to deal with: lack of access to the internet, costly cameras, scanners, and computers, lack of awareness of Northern markets, no money to travel and build up a portfolio, poor business and marketing skills and, probably worst of all, untrusting potential clients, who are nervous to assign an unknown photographer in a distant land.
Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. ??Prakhar/Majority World

Let?s come back to those white males who dominate the global photography market with their orthodox reflections of the Majority World. And aid. ?Development isn?t simply about money. What about developing mutual respect; enabling equitable partnerships; providing enabling environments for intellectual exchange? What about creating awareness of the underlying causes of poverty? These are all integral parts of the development process. When all things are added up, cheap images providing clich?d messages do more harm than good. They do not address the crucial issue: poverty is almost always a product of exploitation, at local, regional and international levels. If poverty is simply addressed in terms of what people lack in monetary terms, then the more important issues of exploitation are sidelined,? wrote Shahidul Alam, an international photojournalist and Chairman of?Majority World in?The New Internationalist in 2007.
Back then, the situation started to change, if only very slowly. In that same article, Mr Alam agreed that due to the media?s deteriorating financial situation, some adjustments had taken place: with media?s budgets squeezed, it?s getting harder to fly Western photographers to make some shots in a far away land.
This is where local photographers come in handy, but the fact is yet to be recognized by news outlets. And it ain?t so sunny out there, either. ?Certain rules still apply of course, such as the vast differentials in pay between local and Western photographers,? wrote Mr Alam.
I asked Dr Colin Hastings who works tirelessly to promote Majority World photography, how to encourage global media organizations to use images made by local photographers. He said we need to make a distinction between purchasing images pre-taken and uploaded into an existing photo library (known as ?stock photography?) and ?assignments?, where a photographer is commissioned to take specified types of image for a particular purpose.
?As for stock images, all we ask is that Majority World photographers have equal opportunities to get their images into photo libraries and showcased across the world and available for sale. At present they are marginalized and face many disadvantages. It is providing an equal playing field that is at the heart of what Majority World is about, enabling them to have the resources that Western photographers just take for granted.
?When it comes to assignments, Western media, editors and photographers tend to go out with a predetermined agenda often to find images to confirm their existing preconceptions and stereotypes often based on information that is way out of date. This is an issue of editorial bias, i.e. do you really want to find out the truth (whatever that is).
?Well, you are more likely to find out from someone who is of the culture, speaks the language, understand the nuances and the history, than from someone who jets in for a few days, is essentially a voyeur from the outside of the culture, and may be viewed with a mixture of incredulity and suspicion by those being photographed… To say nothing of the ethical issues about whether anyone ?should? be or has the right to take photos in any situation.
?It is right to acknowledge that it is not a simple matter to employ and brief an unknown photographer at a distance, especially where there are language and other cultural barriers to communication. But that can also be too easily used as an excuse. There are suitable and reliable photographers out there who do fine work. Part of our role is to take the risk out of this process by finding the most suitable photographer and acting as a communications facilitator.
?We have to help the client to change their behavior and ways of doing things and also help the photographer to understand and to respond to the clients? needs.? It?s complex!?
Three years ago, Dr Hastings expressed his wish for every postcard sold in a tourist destination in the global South to be taken by a local photographer. ?My vision is to see a whole range of beautiful high quality photographic products – cards, calendars, diaries or digital products images – taken entirely by Majority World photographers,? he said.
We?re not there yet, but hopefully on the way.
Photos: fish by?Partha Sarathi Sahana, water by?prakhar

Another View

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Share/Bookmark


Lucia Chiriboga portrays the deep spirituality in Ecuadorian life. Long before Photoshop became commonplace, Lucia began creating complex images by subtle multiple exposures, as a way of weaving multilayered stories of her ancestors. ? Lucia Chiriboga/Drik/Majority World
It was a grand opening. The ?Who?s Who? of development in Britain was there, championing the noble cause ? the Millennium Development Goals, making poverty history.
The Bob Geldof circus could perhaps be pardoned. Geldof is neither a development worker nor someone particularly knowledgeable about the subject. But for the organizers of the ?bash? at the OXO Tower on London?s South Bank to produce such a culturally insensitive event was revealing.
Apart from parading a few young black people from Africa, who extolled the virtues of ?development?, there was little contribution from the Majority World. The key speakers, typically white Western development workers, spoke of the role that they were playing in saving the poor of the Global South. The token dark-skinned people, having played their part, were soon forgotten.
The centrepiece of this celebration was an exhibition entitled Eight Ways to Change the World. All the photographs were taken by white Western photographers. No-one questioned the implication of such an exercise. When I confronted one of the organizers he explained that the curator ? a director of a Western photographic agency ? had decided not to use Majority World photographers because they ?didn?t have the eye?. The sophisticated visual language possessed by the Western audience was presumably beyond the capacity of a photographer from the South to comprehend, let alone engage with at a creative level.
New rules
This represents a shift from the position of 20 years ago when we started asking why Majority World photographers were not being used by mainstream media and development agencies. The answer then had been: ?They don?t exist.? Today our existence is difficult to deny. The internet; the fact that several Majority World agencies operate successfully; and that photographers belonging to such agencies regularly win international awards: all these things mean we are no longer invisible.
Now it?s a different set of rules. We have to prove we have the eye. A similar statement about blacks, women, or minority groups of any sort, would raise a storm. But when such prejudice is used against a group of media professionals from the South, who happen to represent the majority of humankind, no-one appears to bat an eyelid.
I have, of course, faced this situation before. There was, for example, a fax from the National Geographic Society Television Division asking if we could help them with the production of a film that would include the Bangladeshi cyclone of 1991. They wanted specific help in locating ?US, European or UN people… who would lead us to a suitable Bangladeshi family?. The irony of making such a request to a picture agency dedicated to promoting local voices had obviously escaped them. We had gotten used to requests for iconic objects of poverty that international NGOs insisted existed in abundance and had to be photographed ? but which locals neither knew nor had heard of.
The economics of suffering
Charities and development agencies need to raise money from the Western public. The best way to pull the heart strings ? and thereby the purse strings ? is to show those doleful eyes of the disadvantaged.
Perhaps photographers from the South cannot be trusted to understand this. Perhaps they are so hardened to such images of daily suffering that they are unable to appreciate the impact these sights might have on Western audiences ? and the coffers of Western aid agencies.
But certain changes have been taking place, forcing various adjustments. Media budgets have become tighter than they were. Flying people to distant locations is expensive. Having Western photographers ?on the ground? can be dangerous in some cases ? and costly in terms of insurance premiums. Better to have locals in the firing line. So, slowly, local names have begun to creep in. Certain rules still apply of course, such as the vast differentials in pay between local and Western photographers.
Stories about Nike regularly make the headlines, but the exploitative terms on which local photographers work rarely surface. The Bangla saying ?kaker mangsho kak khai na? (a crow doesn?t eat crow?s meat) seems to apply to journalism: criticism of the media is taboo. Not only do the workers on the media sweatshops have to work for peanuts, they need to know which stories to tell. None of this journalistic independence rubbish: gimme stories that sell.
This, of course, affects Southern photographers. When they know certain stories sell, they themselves begin to supply the ?appropriate? images. A man known to carry a toy gun in the streets of Dhaka is repeatedly photographed at religious rallies, and despite common knowledge that it is a fake gun, news agencies run the picture without explaining the nature of the situation. Numerous wire photographers have been known to stage flood pictures and in one famous instance, a child was shown to be swimming to safety in what was known to be knee deep water. The photograph went on to win a major press award.
Money also affects publishers. Smaller budgets require careful shopping. The Corbis, Getty and Reuters image supermarkets are rapidly squeezing out the ?corner store? suppliers and a small Majority World picture library simply can?t compete.
But there are other factors in the equation. Development isn?t simply about money. What about developing mutual respect; enabling equitable partnerships; providing enabling environments for intellectual exchange? What about creating awareness of the underlying causes of poverty? These are all integral parts of the development process. When all things are added up, cheap images providing clich?d messages do more harm than good. They do not address the crucial issue: poverty is almost always a product of exploitation, at local, regional and international levels. If poverty is simply addressed in terms of what people lack in monetary terms, then the more important issues of exploitation are sidelined.

Materially poor nations should have a say in how they are represented. This picture, taken in the early days of the Maoist movement, by Nepalese photographer Binod Dhungel, shows members of his country?s Maoist Movement long before it was breaking news. ? Binod Dhungel/Drik/Majority World
A broader picture
However, the type of imagery required from the Majority World is broadening. This is coming less from growing political sensibility and more from global economic shifts. Negative imagery is seen as a deterrent to foreign investment in emerging markets. With transnationals interested in cheap labour, and a wider consumer base, a different profile is now required to stimulate investor confidence. So, along with the standard fare of flood and famine, there are stories of Indian and Chinese billionaires and how they have benefited from capitalism.
Furthermore the new ?inclusive? media now take on more ethnic-minority journalists. But when they come over to do their groundbreaking stories, it is the rookie on the streets of Dhaka who provides the leads, conducts the research, translates, drives, fixes, and does all that is necessary for the story to emerge. If things do go wrong ? as when Britain?s Channel 4 TV attempted an ill-fated expos? in Bangladesh in late 2002 ? the Western journalists are likely to be home for Christmas while the local fixers face torture in jail.
Drik?s vision
Lacking the advantages of our Western counterparts, image-makers in the South have had to rely on ingenuity and making-do in order to move from being fixers to being authors in their own right. We have had to be pioneers. With one filing cabinet, an XT computer without a hard drive, and a converted toilet as a darkroom, we decided we would take on the established rich-world photo agencies. On 4 September 1989 Drik Alokchitra Granthagar was set up in Dhaka.
The Sanskrit word Drik means vision, inner vision, and philosophy of vision. That vision of a more egalitarian world, where materially poor nations have a say in how they are represented, remains our driving force.
The European agencies I had encountered wanted a minimum submission of 300 transparencies and told you not to ask for money for the first three years. This constituted a massive investment for a Majority World photographer, and virtually ruled out her entry into the market. We had a very different approach. If a photographer had a single good image which we felt needed to be seen we would take her on, try and sell the picture and pay her as soon as the money came in.
It allowed the photographer to buy more rolls of film and carry on working. The photographers didn?t have printing and developing facilities so we set up a good quality darkroom and trained people to make high quality prints. They had no lights so we set up a studio.
The only gallery spaces available were owned by the State or foreign cultural missions, none of which would show controversial work. So we built our own galleries. Few would publish pictures well so we built our own pre-press unit and published postcards, bookmarks and calendars which we sold door-to-door to pay for running costs.
Photography was largely male-dominated, so we organized workshops for women photographers. There were no working-class people in the media, so we started training poor children in photography. We couldn?t afford faxes or international phone calls, so we set up Bangladesh?s first email service and lobbied for the introduction of fully fledged internet. Professor Yunus, the Nobel Prize winner, was our first user. We set up electronic bulletin boards on issues important to us, such as child rights and environmental issues.
We started putting together a database of photographers in the South, and wrote off to as many organizations as we could, offering our services. No-one replied. Undeterred, we put together a portfolio of black-and-white prints, largely by Bangladeshi photographers.
On a rare visit to Europe, I visited the office of the New Internationalist in Oxford. Dexter Tiranti greeted me warmly. He had received our letter, but hadn?t given it too much importance. An agency in Bangladesh seemed too far distant for the NI to work with on a regular basis. Having seen the portfolio, however, Dexter sat me down at his desk and started ringing picture users across Europe. I remember feeling envious of this ability simply to pick up a phone and call someone in another country, but was grateful for the contacts. Dexter asked us to submit pictures for the NI Almanac. The next year we got a letter from him that stated: ?The photographs are beautiful and the reason we are using only six is because we can?t really have too many from one country.? Others Dexter had phoned that day, and many others we have contacted since, have responded similarly, and so picture sales slowly grew ? but it was no easy ride.

Drik?s email network was put to use when writer and feminist Taslima Nasrin, pictured here in hiding, was being persecuted. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Knife wounds and death threats
Our problems weren?t simply ones of surviving on slender means and competing against agencies based in London, Paris and New York. Our activism created problems on our home soil too. We had, by then, set up our own website and had helped to establish the first webzine and internet portal in the country. Our email network had been put to use when Taslima Nasrin was being persecuted. The website became the seat of resistance when pro-government thugs committed rape in a university campus. So the site, and later the agency, came under attack.
The day after our human rights portal www.banglarights.net was launched, all the telephone lines of the agency were disconnected. It took us twoand- a-half years to get the lines back, but that never stopped our internet service and we stayed connected. Later, Drik became the seat of resistance when the Government used the military to round up opposition activists. I was attacked on the street, during curfew and in a street protected by the military. I received eight knife wounds.
So we learnt to walk a fine line.
It wasn?t just the Government that found us unpalatable. The US embassy felt it couldn?t work with us because we opposed President Clinton?s visit to Bangladesh.

Letter by John Kinkannon (director of USIA in Bangladesh) to Mayeen Ahmed, coordinator of Chobi Mela (2000).
The British Council demanded we take down a show that talked about colonialism, and threatened that future projects might be jeopardized when we openly opposed the invasion of Iraq. Death threats, some real, some less serious and a whole range of sabotage attempts have been part of the path we?ve travelled.
Current strategies are more subtle. We know we will never be given work by certain agencies and that visas for some of us will be more difficult to get, but it is certainly not all negative. The main strength of Drik has been its friends and their support. None of what we have achieved would have been possible without the contribution of a large number of people, ranging from ordinary Bangladeshis who have rallied when it mattered, to influential people thousands of miles away who have provided moral and material support. Combining our compulsion to be socially effective with the requirement to be financially independent has remained our biggest challenge. It is a difficult balancing act.
A great high
Taking a principled position has other drawbacks. People work long hours for salaries below the industry norm. There are few perks. But working at Drik is a special experience; a great high. Not everyone can survive on these highs, of course, and job satisfaction doesn?t help pay the bills, so we need to be competitive and ensure a level of quality so that we can hold our own despite the political pressures.
Eighteen years down the road, we now have a workforce of around 60. Graduates from our school of photography, Pathshala, hold senior positions in major publications. The working-class children we?ve trained have gone on to win Emmys and other awards, and I believe Majority World photographers feel they have a platform.
The big agencies like Reuters and Getty can provide images at a cost and a speed impossible for independent practitioners to match, a very real consideration for picture editors under time pressure and working to tight budgets. The fact that Corbis (owned by Microsoft) is buying up picture archives like the Bettman is important for their preservation, but the images that now exist 200 feet below the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania are no longer accessible to the students, scholars and researchers. An important part of our visual history is now in the control of one person ? Bill Gates.

Golam Kasem (nicknamed Daddy) was Drik?s oldest photographer when he died at the age of 103. His original glass plates date back to 1918. This 1927 image is one of many where Daddy records everyday life in rich detail. ? Golam Kasem/Drik/Majority World
Fair trade
Father Paul Casperg, who has been working for many years with the tea plantation workers in Kandy, has an interesting story to tell. Nearly 30 years ago, in his Masters thesis at the London School of Economics, Father Casperg was able to show that an increase of two pence (four US cents) in the price of a cup of tea being sold on the British railways would, providing it went to the Kandy tea plantation workers, result in more income than the total foreign aid received by the Sri Lankan Government.
Father Casperg rightly concluded that it was fair trade that Sri Lanka needed, not more aid.
That is what fair trade imagery organizations like majorityworld.com and kijijiVision (see Action) are trying to do. By invoking ethical standards in the trading of images, these organizations address not only the distorted and disrespectful depiction of people of the Global South, but also the economic divide.
Organizations that call for Majority World governments to be more transparent and accountable need to reflect upon their own ethical standards when it comes to depicting and dealing with the South. Practices such as not allowing photographers to retain copyright or film are justified by the ?convenience? of distributing images. Such ?convenience clauses? are rarely applied to Western photographers, who know the law and can exercise their rights.
Light, flexible, potent
We are resisting, though. The new portal, majorityworld.com, supported strongly by its lobbying partner kijijiVision.org, has built on the extended groundwork done by Drik. DrikNews.com, though still very young, threatens to give the wire agencies a run for their money, and photographers in the South are pooling their resources, including developing close partnerships with like-minded Western organizations.
Recently, I was sitting with a small group of photographers, painters and filmmakers in a corner of the top-floor gallery of the Voluntary Artists Society of Thimpu (capital of Bhutan). At the end of the showing of a film on Chobi Mela IV ? the festival of photography in Asia ? projected on a bedsheet pinned on the gallery wall, the conversation veered to pooling resources in neighbouring countries. Sharing computers, scanners, and contacts, we talked of bus routes to neighbouring countries, and finding public spaces for showing work. What we needed was an online solution that would serve all Majority World photographers.
Having purchased expensive software produced in the West for selling pictures online, we were further bled by consultancy fees we had to pay every time we needed to adapt it to our situation. So, eventually, we developed our own software. It is an inexpensive but highly efficient search engine that local newspaper archives can use. Developed using largely open-source modules, it is constantly updated based on feedback from users from all over the globe and it has worked well on low bandwidth.
Groups in Bhutan, Peru, Tanzania and Vietnam recognize that the wire services and the big agencies have a different agenda. If it?s a guerrilla war against the corporations that has to be fought, then we need different tools. Light, flexible, inexpensive and potent ones.
A revolution is taking place. As new names creep into the byline, unfamiliar faces step up to the award podium and fresh imagery ? vibrant, questioning and revealing ? makes it into mainstream media, a whole new world is opening up. A Majority World.
Originally published in the New Internationalist Magazine in August 2007

Image take-over

In the 1990s independent picture libraries and agencies disappeared at an alarming rate as they were absorbed or driven out of business by larger ones. Dominating the field was Corbis, created by Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates. Corbis now has 24 offices in 16 countries, represents some 29,000 photographers and controls around 100 million images. Last year it acquired the Australian Picture Library, entered a partnership with IndiaPicture.com and opened a new office in Beijing. Its 2006 revenue was more than $251 million.
Other big players have included Getty Images, founded in 1995, which now has 20 offices worldwide and controls over one million images. Jupiterimages, a division of the Connecticut-based Jupitermedia Corporation, manages over seven million images online, while Reuters has an archive of over two million images.
In recent years the microstock photography industry, led by iStockPhoto and later ShutterStock, Dreamstime, Fotolia, and BigStockPhoto has emerged as a rapidly growing market. Using the internet as their sole distribution method, and recruiting mainly amateur and hobbyist photographers from around the globe, these companies are able to offer stock libraries of pictures at very low prices. Corporate giants Corbis, Getty and Jupiterimages have now muscled their way into this market too, adding to their everexpanding fortfolio of the world?s imagery.

Sources: Corbis-Corporate Fact Sheet, BAPLA, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Photo District News, StockPhotoTalk.

Belongings: felt, presented, challenged
Images from Bangladesh, Iran, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
A true Pathshala
The story of an extraordinary school, told by Sameera Huque and Shahidul Alam.
Lifecycle: with a few exits
Images from Nepal and Bangladesh.
Coping with pain
Images from India and Bangladesh.
Lifestyles: disappearing and aspired
Images from Bangladesh and Japan.
Action on Majority World photography
Contacts and websites for agencies that hold or promote Majority World photography.

The South Takes The Picture

Share/Bookmark
New Internationalist editor Dinyar Godrej?s email asking us to participate in the 400th issue of the magazine a few months ago was a great opportunity. But with Dhaka in flames and our own struggles to ensure some semblance of fairness in the elections, we passed it on to other activists.
Vanessa Baird?s subsequent email suggesting an issue of the New Internationalist based on our organization ? the Drik photo agency and Pathshala photography school ? as an example of how some of us in the Majority World are challenging the global information flow, came as an unexpected reprieve.
Our immediate political problems in Bangladesh hadn?t gone away. A tribal activist had been brutally killed by the army, and a journalist friend who had been courageously reporting on military misrule had been picked up in the middle of the night.
So things were far from easy on the home front, but writing about, and showing, what had been our central struggle over the last 20 years was an opportunity we couldn?t miss. We had all lived it. More importantly, with our majorityworld.com site up and running and slowly beginning to get pictures into print, we weren?t just talking about change. We were witnessing it taking place.
This issue of the magazine could hardly have been better timed. Majority World photographers embraced the idea: from the small studio of VAST ? a voluntary artists association in Bhutan ? to a crammed office room in Santa Cruz, Bolivia; from the enthusiastic Photo Circle in Kathmandu to a hotel lobby in Dili, Timor Leste.
Our FTP site has been busy and the pictures ? some of which are featured in the pages of this issue ? have been flowing in. After years of trying to persuade others, Majority World photographers have taken things into their own hands. Watch this space.
Shahidul Alam, Drik/Pathshala for the New Internationalist Co-operative
—————————————————————————————-
The above editorial had been written several weeks ago, but the magazine has just hit the stands. Links to the PDFs of the magazine follow. The online version should be up on the NI site in about six weeks.
26th July 2007. Manila.
ni403cover.pdf
01.pdf
new-internationalist-majority-world.pdf

Searching for solutions

Share/Bookmark
It was 1985, when Jun Jun and I came over for our first trip to Nepal. I had nearly died of hypothermia in our trip to the Everest Base Camp, and Jun and a Japanese explorer had saved my life. My subsequent trips to Nepal have been marked by other drama. As I left for the airport yesterday, Navaraj, the tutor at Pathshala from Kathmandu reminded me that I was going to a new Nepal, one no longer under the rule of the king. Sapna, the human rights lawyer we interviewed in Kathmandu today, remarked wryly, that it was a Nepal ruled by many kings. With the Moaists now in government, one hopes that at the least the violence will go down. Too many lives have been lost.
The killings and disappearances in Nandigram in the largest democracy in the world, and the recent killing of the Adivashi Garo activist Choles Ritchil in the most brutal manner imaginable – ?Choles?s two eyes plucked, testicles removed, anus mutilated, two hand palms smashed , nails of 3 fingers of the right hand removed, left hand thump finger nail removed, two palms had holes, upper right hand had severe wound, several blood stains on the back part of the body, in both thighs middle part there had been two holes, back part of the body had several black marks, several deep marks of wounds on both lower legs, there had been black marks on feet, no nail on thump of right foot, all fingers of two hands were broken.? – by the much lauded new regime in Bangladesh are worrying signs. With conventional media under threat, bloggers become the lonely and marked whistle blowers.
Majority world photographer and All Roads winner from Guatemala Sandra Sebastian is one of many activists in search for solutions.
Sandra Sebastian
I couldn?t believe that passers-by weren?t killed when a shooting occurred between drug traffickers on a busy day in one of the principal avenues in Guatemala City. Two presumed drug traffickers were murdered in their car, which had lots of AK-47 bullet-holes. There were hundreds of bullet-holes all around the avenue. The walls of a school and a bus stop where many people usually sat, were also riddled. Unfortunately two men died, but it could have been a massacre. How many people have to be killed before something is done?
I wasn?t the only astonished person. I took the picture because I want to document and leave a testimony of the time I live in and show the danger that ordinary people face. In the last year alone (2005) more than 5,000 people were killed in street violence in a country of 13 million people. The reasons? Delinquency, organized crime, drug trafficking, poverty, broken homes. I want to talk of the inefficient justice system and the impunity with which some operate. I want to point to the consequences, and hope people can understand and search for solutions.

Sandra Sebastian, Guatemala