Resilience and Reasons

Nepal Earthquake by Abir Abdullah

text by  Photographer Syed Latif Hossain 

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Our sub-continent is now emerging from a crucial experience of its history. This history narrates defining moments captured in epic tragedy, inflicted wounds that are slowly fortifying, and material and spiritual loss that would be embalmed in the hearts of generations. On a seemingly normal weekend day as people went about their business, the earth in Nepal shook up its natives to the point of unfamiliarity. An earthquake, that registered 7.8 on the Richter scale. It caused many people to flee and it rendered many others immobile; and it caused hearts to freeze as they witnessed their world crumbling around them. A sea of hearts, many which remained trapped in the sea of rubble, with their homes, their temples and their loved ones.
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The valley of Bhaktapur

Growing up in Kathmandu was magical. At the time, literally a small quaint Kingdom. A home with a small cow shed and an orchard in the backyard. A larger than life tree towering over an old temple, stretching it’s long arms over the entire neighbourhood. At dawn the sounds of brobdingnagian temple bells, struck loud enough to invoke the gods from their sleep. All that against the backdrop of a cacophony of the zillion birds that lived on this tree. Giant wheel chariots, living goddesses and royal processions. The infamous Titaura (local sweet and spicy candy) for which would endeavour any Everest. Demons and Yeti’s were still real and come autumn, the breeze would fill the skies with kites. Not a day went by without adventure.

Photo by @sumitdayal
#nepalphotoproject #nepalearthquake #bhaktapur#nepal

Situation Report: Dhaka, April 26, 2015: Hazard Type: Earthquake

Location: Nepal, India and Bangladesh

Reporting Period: 26 April’15

Location: Nepal, India and Bangladesh

Detail Information:

An earthquake rattled the Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rongpur, Kushtia and different parts of the country on April, 25. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter was 81 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal at a depth of 9.3 moles. The Meteorological Department stated that the epicenter of the earthquake was 745 km north-west of Bangladesh. Tremors were felt also across the region, in India, Tibet, China, Tibet and Pakistan (Prothom Alo; bdnews24.com; the Daily Star, April, 25; and CNN, April, 26).

Another Earthquake followed the earlier one as an aftershock at 13.08 on 26th April to hit Nepal with a magnitude of 6.7 along with Bangladesh and India (Prothom Alo; bdnews24.com; the Daily Star, April, 26; and CNN, April, 26).

Damage Information:

Bangladesh: In Bangladesh, total 5 people were killed and up to 100 people were injured while evacuating. One female was killed by collapse of wall made of mud along with other two women were killed in Pabna and Dhaka. One worker was killed along with 50 injuries in Savar. Another death toll occurred in Sunamganj. 50 readymade garment workers were injured at Ishwardi (Situation Report, DDM, April 25; Prothom, April, 26). 23 buildings were damaged in all over Bangladesh (Situation Report, DDM, and April, 25).

Earthquake, 25 April: Damage and loss in Bangladesh
Death Injury Structural Damage
persons died (1 inSavar, Dhaka; 1 in Bogra; 1 in Sunamganj; &1 in Pabna) § 10-12 workers injured atMission Group GarmentFactory in Savar

§ 2-3 workers injured at Kardena garment in Comilla

§ Five story building develops cracks in Bangla Bazar, Dhaka§ Six story building tilted in Nawabpur, Dhaka§ Five story building tilted in Mirpur, Dhaka

§ Seven story building tilted in Keraniganj, Dhaka.

§ A hotel tilted in Baridhara , Dhaka

§ 2 commercial buildings tilted in Narayanganj

§ 1 garment factory tilted in Gazipur

§ 1 school damaged in Gopalganj

§ 10 story commercial building with cracks in Feni

§ A building with cracks in Nabiganj, Sylhet

§ A school tilted in Gangachara upazila, Rangpur

§ 2 schools damaged in Gaibandha

§ 2 buildings damaged in Rajshahi

§ 4 buildings tilted in Naogaon

§ Crack found at school in Sonatola, Bogra

Source: Disaster situation report, DDM, April, 25, 2015

NepalThe 7.8 magnitude quake along with a strong aftershock of magnitude 6.6 followed by nearly three dozen other aftershocks struck an area of central Nepal between the capital, Kathmandu, and the city of Pokhara on Saturday morning (April 25, 2015). The Home Ministry identifies that more than 2263 people were killed and 4,718 people were injured (till 17.00, CNN, April 26) which mainly include only information of cities. The earthquake flattened homes, buildings and temples, causing widespread damage along with wrecking many historic buildings include the Dharahara tower, the landmark nine- story structure. Kathmandu airport was shut till 4 pm, Indigo, SpiceJet flights forced back after fresh tremors jolt Nepal (India today April, 26) Mobile phones, Electricity and other communications were disrupted. Around 6.6 million people are affected in Nepal according to the UN Office in Kathmundu (India today April, 26). The Government of Nepal declared the National Emergency. (ekantipur.com, April, 26)
Earthquake 1
Building tilted due to earthquake in Nepal

Earthquake 2

A man trapped under a building in Nepal

Government of Bangladesh provided 10 tons of reliefs including food (biscuit, water, and dry foods), medical (medicine) and humanitarian help (tent, blanket) along with a team of 34 members consisted of

groups of physicians and Bangladesh Air force crew (bdnews24.com, April, 26; Prothom Alo, April, 26).

The U.S. government is providing $1 million in immediate assistance to Nepal. Aid agencies expressed concern for the welfare of survivors in the coming days, as overnight temperatures were expected to drop and people were forced to make do without electricity, running water and shelter. (US Geological Survey, CNN, April, 26; BBC News, April 26 and Prothom Alo, April 25).

The UK has deployed a team of humanitarian experts to Nepal to provide urgent support. A number of

British charities are assembling disaster teams to join the rescue effort.

Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children, the British Red Cross and Plan International UK are assessing the humanitarian need in the disaster struck area.

IndiaOfficials in India confirmed at least 52 deaths in three states from the Earthquake. (bdnews24.com, April, 26)

Tibet: At least 17 people were killed and 53 injured along with roads buckled and buildings collapse in

Tibet. (bdnews24.com, April, 26

Avalanches in Himalayan: Twenty two (22) people have killed along with 237 missing on Mount Everest by avalanches caused by the Earthquake, the mountain’s worst-ever disaster (BdNews.24.com, April, 26)

Reporting from: NIRAPAD Secretariat
4/16 (1st Floor), Humayun Road, Block-B
Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207
Bangladesh

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1134 – lives not numbers

A group exhibition dedicated to the lost garment workers of Bangladesh.

Photo: Taslima Akhter
Photo: Taslima Akhter

Still haunted by the memories. When I close my eyes I see the procession of corpses, following me behind, taunting my sense of responsibility. 24th April, 2013, Rana Plaza collapses, 1134 lost to senseless greed, lives lost due to collective negligence. A dark day in the history of garments workers lives, a nightmare which will terrorize us for the rest of our lives. Amongst the rubble, hidden beneath the stones, beams and bricks, thousands of workers lie enveloped in darkness, their dreams crushed under the weight of our negligence.

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An image to be sipped

“The Oncoming Storm” by Jonathan Munshi

It was an unusual situation. I was the sole judge for a contest organised by Robi through Facebook, and had found an image I loved. I wrote a piece explaining my reasons behind choosing the photograph. There were other winners, chosen by the public. An exhibition had been arranged.

Shortly before the opening, it was discovered that the photograph had been submitted not by the person who took it, but by someone else. Luckily there was time to choose another image. One which I also liked. After the show, I wrote to Jonathan Munshi, the real author of the original winner, explaining the situation. Jonathan took it well, and since I’d already written the piece describing his image, I thought I’d post it here, along with our email exchange.

Jonathan Munshi
(c) Jonathan Munshi

We look for special moments, gentle light, a fleeting glimpse. Wide open vistas, majestic skies. We capture great events, reveal hard truth. Photography is the wonderful tool that straddles science and art, mystery and fact. It enchants as it informs. But largely, photographs illustrate situations as they unfold. Record incidents. Document what is visible. It is when photography takes on the intangible that it is at its poetic best. When what it shows is not an illustration of what was, but the mystery of what might have been. It is while describing the elusive and the amorphous that photography becomes magical.

The whole gamut of human experience displayed through this contest provides a visual feast of delightful proportions. Powerful portraits, breathtaking landscapes, the drama of the streets, the well crafted still life and the creative rendering of the colours of our flag reflect the incredibly high standard in this medium that the nation has attained.

The winning photograph is a great image out of many. However, it stands apart from the rest because of a tenderness and sensitivity that is rare. It rises above the aesthetic requirements of a well-crafted photograph, to become an important social document that is gentle, evocative and deeply significant. It is an image many would have missed. A situation most would have passed by and where many photographers would have put their camera away, if only for protection from the elements.

The monsoon is a special season. Bangladeshi songs, poems and paintings describe the rains in many ways. Some ebullient, some sad, often through expressions of love. But while walking through the warm rain might have romantic overtones for some, for others the reality might be very different. The patter of raindrops on a wet footpath might be music for some. For dwellers of the street, it has a harsher message. It represents wet clothes, sleepless nights, lost earnings, another hard day in an already hard life. Hiding behind the haze of fine mist, is perhaps a passionate dream. A longing for what one knows to be unreachable.

The city has many charms. The bright lights, the razzmatazz, the hope for a job, a chance to change one’s destiny, a sense of adventure. The promise of a better life draws people to the metropolis. But the bright lights are always not so sparkling. The paved streets not so glamorous. Nights not so serene. Yet, people struggle to create a life for themselves. Their tenacity, their resilience, their ability to overcome all odds are what make Bangladeshis special. It is the endurance and the enterprise of its people that makes this a great nation.

The image speaks to us at many levels. The subdued tones compress the tonal range, creating subtle shifts in shades of grey. It is rich in texture though it reveals itself slowly. It is a song sung on minor chords. It is not an image to be drunk but to be savoured and sipped with many a lingering pause.

Shahidul Alam

Dear Jonathan,

I was the jury in a contest where your photograph was entered by another photographer and it won! Not being aware it was your photo, I also wrote a piece about it, and it was just before the prize giving ceremony that it got found out. Happy to send you the piece I wrote in case you are interested

Best,

Shahidul

“Thank you, Shahidul Bhai, for sharing the piece. It is as beautifully written, as poetic, as I imagined it would be. It is a great tribute to the photo and is easily the best and truest attribution that anyone has ever given to this image. The photo was taken on the night that AILA made landfall. I was struck by this delicate little girl frolicking in the battering wind and the driving rain, seemly unaware of the full measure of the devastation that was about to follow. It was then, at that moment, that the image became for me an allegory for her turbulent life ahead, and for the lives of so many others on the street. I titled it “The Oncoming Storm.” Your lyrical words in some magical way captured the true essence of that moment, and did so much more eloquently than any picture of mine ever could. Thank you so very much!”

Jonathan

As for the person who submitted the photograph pretending it was his, the less said the better.

Silver threads, frayed seams

Until

Garment workers on their way to work, early in the morning, in Dhaka. Bangladesh earns more than $12 billion in garment exports, mainly to the United States and the European Union. The sector has employed about 2 million workers, mostly women, with the official minimum monthly wage for a new garment worker starting at 3,000 takas ($45). Dhaka, Bangladesh. September 12, 2012.

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Taslima Akhter's photo in Time top 10 of 2013

Taslima Akhter
Taslima Akhter. Savar Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 24, 2013.

April 24, 2013, still remains fresh in my memory. At 9 AM when I got the news, I rushed to Rana Plaza. That morning I did not understand what a brutal thing had happened, but within hours I grasped the enormity and horror of it. The day passed with many people helping survivors and taking photos. At midnight there were still many people. I saw the frightened eyes of the relatives. Some were crying. Some were looking for their loved ones.

Around 2 AM among the many dead bodies inside the collapse, I found a couple at the back of the building, embracing each other in the rubble. The lower parts of their bodies were stuck under the concrete. A drop of blood from the man’s eye ran like a tear. Since then, this couple remains firmly in my heart. So many questions rose in my mind. What were they thinking at the last moment of their lives? Did they remember their family members? Did they to try to save themselves?

I keep asking myself whether the dreams of these people do not matter at all. Are they not worthy of our attention because they are the cheapest labor in the world? I have received many letters from different corners of the world, expressing solidarity with the workers. Those letters inspired me so much, while this incident raised questions about my responsibility as a photographer. My photography is my protest.

More than ever, photography has become the predominant means for us to communicate. An absolutely astounding number of pictures are shared every single day — half a billion, and rising. And yet somehow, even amid this colossal torrent of imagery, the best pictures rise to the top.

Our top ten photographs of 2013 celebrate a variety of images from a multitude of photographers, including seasoned photojournalists Tyler Hicks (the Westgate Mall Massacre in Nairobi), Philippe Lopez, (Super Typhoon Haiyan’s destructive wrath upon the Philippines), and John Tlumacki, for his extraordinary coverage of the terror bombing at the Boston Marathon.

The news has introduced to us several emerging photographers this year, including Mosa’ab Elshamy who documented the bloody demonstrations in Cairo’s Rabaa Square, and Daniel Etter, who made an iconic photograph during the Turkish uprising. In late April, activist and photographer Taslima Akhter made the single most haunting photograph of the fire that killed more than 1000 in a Bangladeshi garment factory: a final embrace. Although she has spent months trying to learn the names of the victims shown in that unsettling, moving picture, Akhter has been unable to identify them.

In September, TIME published a set of images recording a brutal execution in Syria; at the time, we withheld the photographer’s name for security reasons. Now, he has decided to come forward for the first time. He is Emin Özmen, a Turkish photographer awarded a World Press Photo prize in 2012 for his images of torture in Aleppo. The execution pictures he made over the course of one day in the midst of the Syrian cataclysm bear witness to that war’s unspeakable, and ongoing, atrocities.

Photographer Peter van Agtmael has spent many years documenting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their aftermath. In June, he made a touching portrait of an Iraqi war veteran-turned stand-up comedian, Bobby Henline, as part of a photo essay and documentary film for TIME.

David Jenkins captures an astounding photograph of a great white shark near Seal Island, South Africa whose prey, the great fur seal, looks to have gotten away. You’ll have to read his account to find out.

Early in the year, Tim Holmes, his wife and five grandchildren took refuge in the sea bordering their property when a wild brush fire swept through their Australian coastal town. Holmes took a harrowing picture with his mobile phone to send to his daughter as proof that they were all okay. While Holmes is not a news photographer, his picture is testament to the power of the mobile phone and the fact that some of the most newsworthy and emotional pictures can be made by normal citizens in the midst of a breaking story.

We spoke to each of the 10 photographers about the image that he or she shot; their words provide the captions accompanying the photos in the gallery above.

In the next few weeks, TIME.com will roll out our year-end photo specials. For the third year in a row, we’ll present our annual “365: Year in Pictures” gallery — a comprehensive look at the strongest picture from each and every day of 2013; the Most Surprising Pictures of the Year; TIME’s best photojournalism and portraiture from 2013 and TIME’s choice for the Wire Photographer of the Year. TIME’s Senior Photo Editor, Phil Bicker, is curating many of these galleries with help from the photo team at TIME. Bicker’s discerning and nuanced eye is responsible for the curation of TIME’s Pictures of the Week  — galleries that present surprising and occasionally offbeat photographs from around the globe. We hope you will enjoy the selections and keep watching for updates through the end of 2013. Think we missed something? Tell us your favorite photo of 2013 using #TIME2013.

Finally, I’m especially proud to announce that our upcoming Dec. 23rd issue of TIME will be dedicated fully to the art and power of the photograph in 2013. Stay tuned…


Kira Pollack is TIME’s Director of Photography. Follow her on Twitter @kirapollack.