As a journalist, your only space is at the edge. You have to be constantly feeling the heat. Go back one more step, and you may cease to be effective. There are no safe options, and no prizes for popularity and if you’re not making certain people uncomfortable by your presence, you are probably doing something wrong. The struggle for change is a never-ending process that requires you to be constantly alert, and forever swimming against the current. It is a lonely, stressful, tiring and immensely gratifying journey
A Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. Alam’s documentation contributed to the ouster of autocratic general Hussain Muhammad Ershad. Former president of Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Bangladesh Photographic Institute, Chobi Mela festival, Majority World agency and Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world.
Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, Tate Modern London and Museum of Contemporary Arts Tehran, Alam has curated at Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery, National Art Gallery Malaysia, Musee de Quai Branly and Brussels Biennale. His awards include Shilpakala Padak, the highest state award given to Bangladeshi artists, the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Dali Festival in China and the National Institute of Design in India, the Lucie Foundation Humanitarian Award and the ICP Infinity Special Presentation Award. He is also the 2020 recipient of the International Press Freedom Award given by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
A chair of World Press Photo international jury, Alam has spoken at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities. He is Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society and Visiting Professor of Sunderland University.
John Morris described his book “My journey as a witness” as “The most important book ever written by a photographer”. A blogger and a new media pioneer, Alam introduced email to Bangladesh. Described by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, Alam was arrested in August 2018, for criticising the Bangladeshi government, but was released on bail after over 100 days in jail after a massive global campaign for his release.
Alam’s retrospective “Truth to Power” is showing at the Rubin Museum in New York. His new book “The Tide Will Turn” by Steidl, with photographs by Alam and pioneering Bangladeshi photographers and text by text by Arundhati Roy and Alam has received critical acclaim.