Capturing The Unseen Side Of Bangladesh

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The Picture Show NPR
08:45 am

November 14, 2011

Name a foreign country and then count how long it takes for the cliches to come rushing forth. Start with, say, Switzerland ? what first leaps to the mind are banks, chocolate and watches. Or, in the case of Brazil, it’s soccer and Carnaval. Now consider Bangladesh. If any mental picture comes up at all it probably has to do with floods and famine.
Interview on NPR
It is easy to see why those prevailing images and visual stereotypes of his homeland frustrate the heck out of Shahidul Alam. “The image of my country was built largely upon what white, Western photographers were telling,” he tells?Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep in an interview Monday.
Alam recently published a book, “My Journey As A Witness.” This collection of photographs documents a career spent not just taking beautiful pictures but producing a new set of images that enable a more nuanced way of seeing Bangladesh.
Many of his portraits are of individuals living in extreme poverty and yet the portraits manifest optimism. He speaks proudly of how the poorest of the poor in his country “manage in very difficult situations coming out with some sort of a formula for survival, which really is to be admired.”

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.” His recent book “The Tide Will Turn” published by Steidl in 2020, is listed in New York Time’s ‘Best Art Books of 2020’. Alam received the “International Press Freedom Award” for 2020 from ‘The Committee to Protect Journalists’.

One thought on “Capturing The Unseen Side Of Bangladesh”

  1. Comments on NPR Blog:
    Shahidul: NPR have corrected the name of the book in their blog.
    Rosa Falvo (Rosa_Maria_Falvo) wrote:
    The book is called: SHAHIDUL ALAM: My Journey as a Witness. You can buy it at all good book stores and online at the Rizzoli USA site: http://www.rizzoliusa.com/book.php?isbn=9788857209661
    many thanks
    Rosa Maria Falvo (editor and publisher)
    Wed Nov 16 2011 03:20:38 GMT+0600 (BDT)
    Zaki Rahman (zakirahman) wrote:
    Quick question ? is the book called “My Journey as a Witness” or “My Life As A Witness”? Nevertheless, Shahidul Alam is a gifted photographer! Thank you NPR for featuring his work.
    Tue Nov 15 2011 19:29:24 GMT+0600 (BDT)
    shadeed ahmad (shadeed) wrote:
    When I see pictures conveying such profound serenity and specific ambiance of a culture, the soul of the people is vividly explained.
    Bangladesh is rightfully so, the cherished home of a beautiful and proud people.
    Shahidul Alam has opened the nation of Bangladesh to a more sophisticated outlook of it. Shahidul Alam truly is a noteworthy “eye.”
    Tue Nov 15 2011 13:47:51 GMT+0600 (BDT)
    Farrah Elbaz (Farrahiswinning) wrote:
    This made me think seriously about forgetting all of the things I’m responsible for and taking the next flight to somewhere no one is willing to go and living in someone else’s shoes. That’s a good thing, by the way. Thanks for these. They’re wonderful.
    Mon Nov 14 2011 22:20:10 GMT+0600 (BDT)
    Wandering Wotan (Wandering_Wotan) wrote:
    Simply stunning and I found high poetry and a narrative in each and every photo featured here. Thank you Luis, Claire and the rest of the staff involved. This is becoming my favorite blog on NPR.
    Mon Nov 14 2011 21:26:08 GMT+0600 (BDT)
    Tamara Clover (lacloveralta) wrote:
    I LOVED these photos and immediately tried to price Alim’s newly published book. I discovered that the title is actually, My Journey as a Witness, (not My Life… as NPR reported). I appreciate Alim’s “insider” perspective as a photographer; thanks for covering this!
    Mon Nov 14 2011 14:43:48 GMT+0600 (BDT)
    Rajib Shome (lotusmoon) wrote:
    Nice shots!
    One comment: Is Picture #5 – Title: “Girl in sugarcane field..” really taken in Aurangabad, MH, India? If so, how come it gets into your Album ‘Capturing The Unseen Side Of Bangladesh’ ??
    Mon Nov 14 2011 13:58:45 GMT+0600 (BDT)
    Jodi I (915) wrote:
    These photos are truly beautiful. I enjoyed looking through the eyes of Alam’s camera.
    Mon Nov 14 2011 11:50:02 GMT+0600 (BDT)

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