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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Defying the Laws of Gravity

Photographers in Bangladesh 1987 -2014

Rich Mix exhibition

It’s an unlikely mix.  The powerful but sage Abir Abdullah,, the protesting activist Taslima Akhter, the quiet and reflective Sarker Protick, the agent provocateur Jannatul Mawa, the deep and other worldly Anisul Hoque, the disturbingly questioning Tushikur Rahman and the visionary Shahidul Alam. Collectively they shape one of the most powerful photographic movements of modern times.

In fifteen years, and with the most rudimentary of equipment, they have taken a hundred square metres of Dhaka as their own and created a vortex of creativity that has shaken the world of photography. The whirlwind around that vortex, fueled by a revolution against injustice, has not only taken on a tired education system steeped in bureaucracy, but also a global and seemingly impenetrable photographic industry hijacked by wealthier nations. They are photo-militants who have learnt to defy the rules of gravity.

The work is remarkable for its range, but is bound by an underlying strand: a belief that the art of photography, cannot, must not, limit itself to the aesthetic alone. The compulsion to address wrong, regardless of the vocabulary of the art, is what holds this wild bunch together. Unlike other schools of thought however, Pathshala has been able to accommodate and thrive on this diversity.   Freed from the need to conform, unencumbered by role models other than in ethics and philosophy, each artist has found a unique signature, where the greater signature of the school only becomes apparent when one steps back to see the bigger picture. Multicoloured bogies in vastly different guises all on the train to justice.

Alam’s “Struggle for Democracy”, produced at a time when the concept of a photo story had not been developed, looks at politics not merely in terms of the physical struggle for power, but also in everyday life. Religion, class, gender and militarization are all addressed in a succinct essay produced and exhibited under oppressive military rule. An open letter to the prime minister, incorporated within a visual narrative, formsa window for other practitioners to peep through.

Abir Abdullah, at that time a young recruit at Drik, looks at the war veterans whom the euphoria of victory had left behind. Classic in its approach, it is the tender humanity of his work and his ability to relate to a dream that had shaped a generation before him, which makes the work stand out.

One could walk past Anisul Hoque without seeing him. Quiet, unassuming, almost invisible, Anis is almost like the bonsais that he grows. His work, influenced by the mother that he lost while young, is similarly diminutive, but detailed and laden with symbolism. He is the ultimate sufi photographer.

Taslima Akhter is inseparable from the labour movements she has singled out as her space. It is only fitting that perhaps one of the most iconic images of the decade, was seen through her lens. One that she was perhaps destined for. Typically, she scorned the award ceremony in Amsterdam, to be there with the workers.

Tushikur Rahman draws on his own troubling past to take us to uncomfortable realms. Dark and somber, the work unearths the subject of suicide, a common but taboo subject that middle class sensibility finds difficult to discuss. While it draws us into problematic areas, the work, through his own life, also gives us hope and provides an understanding of youth culture.

Sarker Protick’s delicate imagery floats amongst this heavy cast. The high key images surround their subject, wrapping them in tenderness. While the typical photojournalist photographs events and moments, Protick photographs feelings, his images lovingly brushing themselves across the canvas.

Jannatul Mawa returns us to the essence of documentary photography. She peels back layers of societal veneer and strips bare the relationships of power and class. Embedding herself within that social milieu, she offers images that are understated and unreliant on words, reminding us that the personal is political.

Diverse as they are, there are few courts of Justice that could deny the living, breathing documents, of these powerful witnesses of our times.

The exhibition is part of Freedom Week 2015

The Vevey international photography 2013/2014 goes to Augustin Rebetez (1986, CH)

Augustin Rebetez gets main award, while Abir Abdullah gets Reportage award.

After two days of deliberation around?750 applications from 63 countries, a jury of international professionals composed of??Florian Ebner, curator at Folkwang Museum in Essen (Germany),?Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh & Rozenn Qu?r?, winners of the Vevey international photography award 2011/2012,?Erik Kessels, curator and editor at KesselsKramer in Amsterdam (The Netherlands),?Kathy Ryan, photo editor at New York Times Magazine (USA) and presided by French photographer?Bettina Rheimsdecided to award the young Swiss photographer?Augustin Rebetez.?
Continue reading “The Vevey international photography 2013/2014 goes to Augustin Rebetez (1986, CH)”

Abir Abdullah, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz Win Alexia Foundation Grants

MARCH 01, 2013 by David Walker

Workers line up unclaimed bodies of victims of on accidental fire in a mass funeral at a grave at Jurain in Dhaka, Bangladesh. ©ABIR ABDULLAH

Abir Abdullah of Bangladesh has won the $15,000 professional award in the Alexia Foundation grant competition, organizers announced this morning. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz won the Alexia Foundation Student Grant, which includes a full-tuition scholarship to study photojournalism at the Syracuse University London Program in Fall, 2013, plus a $1,000 grant. Abdullah submitted a proposal to document the continuous threat of fire in the working class communities of Dhaka, Bangladesh in basti (slums), garment factories and shopping malls. The fires, which are a consequence of poor safety regulation and official corruption, have killed hundreds of people–particularly garment workers–in recent months. Abdullah teaches part time at the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, and works as a stringer in Bangladesh for European Photo Agency, according to the Alexia Foundation web site. Abdullah’s winning application was among 443 submitted for this year’s professional grant.

There were five other finalists:  freelance photographer Christian Werner based in Nordstemmen, Germany; Robin Hammond, a freelance photojournalist based in Paris; Noriko Hayashi, a freelance photographer based in Tokyo; Alvaro Ybarra Zavala, 31, a Getty photographer based in Spain; and Jenn Ackerman, a freelance photographer based in Minneapolis.
Lewkowicz, a photojournalism graduate student at Ohio University, won the student grant to continue work on her project about domestic abuse, called “Shane and Maggie.” The project has received widespread attention in recent days because of a series of graphic images of a domestic violence incident Lewkowicz captured while documenting the couple. Dijana MuMinovic, who is also a photojournalism graduate student at Ohio University, was the second place winner in the student competition, which had 121 applications this year. “The overall quality of the student and professional entries was extremely high both in the photography and in the seriousness of the proposals,” juror Jim Dooley said in a statement issued by the Alexia Foundation.
The mission of the Alexia Foundation is to promote photojournalism through scholarships and grants to bring attention to social injustice and to promote cross-cultural understanding. The foundation was established by the family of Alexia Tsairis, a Syracuse University student who died in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
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Abir Abdullah is a student of the 1st batch at Pathshala, South Asian Media institute. He is a former vice principal of Pathshala and has served in the World Press Photo jury. He was one of the founders of DrikNews.

Abir Abdullah in New York Times Lens Blog

April 10, 2012,?5:00 AM

?Death Traps? in Dhaka

By?MATT MCCANN

A patriot might not readily describe his native city as a ?death trap??and?a beautiful place in the same breath, but for the Bangladeshi photographer?Abir Abdullah, they?re not mutually exclusive. Bangladesh and its capital, Dhaka, one of the most populous and dense cities in the world, face complex challenges, as a robust economy frequently beset by natural disasters. Continue reading “Abir Abdullah in New York Times Lens Blog”

Lessons of Darkness

Abir Abdullah

By Mrs. Deane

abir1.jpg
from?Death Traps ? Tales of a Mega Com?mu?nity?? Abir Abdullah
Abir Abdul?lah?is another fig?ure on the fore?front of Bangladeshi (doc?u?men?tary) pho?tog?ra?phy. He is a very engaged prac?ti?tioner as well, as his series?Death Trapsshows, which is lit?er?ally awe?some, and with which he hopes to awaken the con?scious?ness of those hold?ing the power to effec?tu?ate a change for the better. Continue reading “Lessons of Darkness”

Death Traps: Tales of a Mega Community

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By Abir Abdullah

Vice Principal Pathshala

(Abir was a student of the first batch of students of Pathshala)

A fire broke out on 03 june 2010 night at about 9pm after the electrical transformer at Nawab Katra in Nimtali in Dhaka City burst into flames that raced through several apartment complexes, feeding on flammable chemicals and plastic goods in a string of small shops lining the street beneath, fire officials said. Dearh toll rose to 119 while many are struggling in the hospitals for life.


Fire is an ever present death threat for the entire community of Dhaka city. From homes and workplaces to shopping malls and public spaces, a lack of building codes and fire protection have created a situation where residents are living in a continual death trap. And due to lack of training and proper rescue equipment for the fire service authority, fire accidents are responsible for the destruction of assets and homes as well as lives. The widespread lack of equipment and protection means fire deaths affect nearly everyone, from working class to middle class, and even the elites.



I have been documenting the important issue of fire risks faced by residents of Dhaka for the last couple of years. Through my work, I have seen civilians risking their lives to save others in rescue operations. Firefighters with lack of training and proper rescue equipment are also part of the rescue operation, bringing injured and panicked victims of fire to safety. I believe my photo essay will raise awareness, and hope that it will act as a catalyst for the authorities to take prompt action to save the life and property of an entire community. I hope it will help the policy makers and administrations to consider how Dhaka city has become the ?second worst? livable city in the world. I want to show how reversing the trend of inefficiency and neglect by the authorities can help bring an end to the needless loss of many lives in the peaceful, beautiful city of Dhaka.




Abir Abdullah
Photographer
european pressphoto agency b.v. (epa)
Bangladesh Bureau
Mobile: 8801715105546
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