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Sayed Asif Mahmud channels Moriyama for an expressive view of his city and country

By Dan Abbe on October 20, 2011Expand

From “My City of Unheard Prayers”
The work of?Sayed Asif Mahmud is my first exposure to the photography culture of Bangladesh, but it’s certainly given me the desire to explore further. Although these technically rough photos would probably make your high school photography teacher wince, they?re not the result of carelessness. In fact, they can be placed within a larger tradition of messy black-and-white snapshot photographers like Daido Moriyama and Antoine D’Agata. But let’s leave aside these figures for the moment, and look at Asif Mahmud’s work on its own.

From “My City of Unheard Prayers”

There are a few different series on Asif Mahmud’s site, but I’m particularly interested in “My City Of Unheard Prayers,” a series of photographs taken at night which seems to boil his work down into its most basic elements. He’s using light and shadow (also the title of?a Moriyama book) in a very primal way. The light in the frame usually doesn’t show us any “thing,” but rather a texture, or an opening, or a reflection. We could say that the photograph showing a man’s face the most clear, in that there is a proper subject to look at. But even in this photo, it’s difficult to focus on his face, instead of the haze which shrouds it. What can the shot of cars on wet cement tell us? It looks like they’re only there to illuminate the scar-like texture of the road, which holds the image together.

From “My City of Unheard Prayers”

Some part of me knows that these photographs don’t represent what Dhaka is “actually like.” ?My City Of Unheard Prayers? presents a highly stylized vision, which is what allows me to imagine that a road could have a scar in the first place. It is possible to say that this gritty, high-contrast black-and-white style has already been done to pieces by Moriyama and others–Asif Mahmud has a?dog photo to match?Moriyama’s most famous shot. This would miss the point, though. The style itself is accessible to anyone with a camera and film. (This does actually exclude a great number of people.) If we think of the style as a kind of language, spoken by Moriyama, D’Agata and others, Asif Mahmud has developed his own vocabulary–or, you know, “found his voice,” if you prefer. It makes the rest of his work, which includes a series about thetobacco trade in Bangladesh, all the more compelling.
[via?Mrs. Deane]

From “My City of Unheard Prayers”

Dan Abbe is a writer and photographer working in Tokyo. He writes a blog about Japanese photography,?Street Level Japan. On Twitter he’s?@d_abbe. Syed Asif Mahmud is a Pathshala alumni

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.”

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