Tracing Freedom

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


In late 2008 and early 2009 the Norwegian photographer Tom Hatlestad spent four months driving overland between Norway and Bangladesh. Along the way, he asked a hundred people to define freedom. Some of them are featured in this exhibition. Tom began dreaming of making an exhibition of photos and statements on perceptions of freedom after hearing that the theme for the 2009 Chobi Mela international festival of photography in Dhaka would be ?Freedom?.

Tom Hatlestad's Defender approaching the gates of Drik in Dhanmondi. Dhaka. 17th January 2009. Shehabuddin/Drik/Majority World

Freedom of movement – Tom has always loved to travel freely, and has visited some 50 countries to date. As a Norwegian citizen, he is also privileged in being able to travel to most places without problems. However, freedom of movement is actually less now than it was 50 years ago, mostly due to international politics and increasing levels of tension. With closed borders in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Burma making the northern and southern routes impassable, Tom drove the only remaining overland route between Norway and Bangladesh: Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal and India.

Tom through the windscreen of his Defender. Drik. Dhaka. 17th January 2009. Shehabuddin/Drik/Majority World

Freedom of thought – Driving ten hours daily for 102 days evokes a type of meditative state and a sense of freedom from domestic concerns. Tom?s Land Rover was not only a rolling studio with its own photo backdrop, but also a canvas for exploring his personal challenges on route. From its safety, he could differentiate real external barriers from those which were mostly in his head.

Tom demonstrating his tent. Drik. Dhaka. 17th January 2009. Shehabuddin/Drik/Majority World

Freedom to congregate – Tom talked to people from around 30 different countries and from all walks of life and social standings. They include the head of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet, a world renowned violin maker, a Nobel Peace laureate, authors and activists. But it wasn?t easy to meet people of different ages, genders and nationalities ? in some countries women just aren?t allowed to talk to strangers, in others Tom?s passport was confiscated and he had to follow a military escort.

The route taken by Tom Hatlestad. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Tracing Freedom is a project in cooperation with the Nobel Peace Centre. Tom hopes that these portraits of freedom encourage you to reflect upon the freedom you experience in your own life, country and neighbourhood. Ultimately, he wants Tracing Freedom to help inspire a more open-minded and generous spirit in relation to our acceptance of other people?s attitudes.
Tom Hatlestad?s base is in Tj?me, Norway, from where he is currently planning his next Freedom Track journey. Tracing Freedom is supported by H?yanger N?ringsutvikling, Sparebanken Sogn og Fjordane and Fond for Lyd og Bilde.
Scroll down this link to see a description of Tom’s trip to Bangladesh

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

Leave a Reply