Shahidul Alam presenting at Tate Modern

Violence and Representation – Part 6 18 September 2010 by Shahidul Alam

To coincide with the exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera, this symposium explores violence as a subject in relation to representations in the broadest range of historical and geographical?contexts.
It includes international artists, photojournalists and theorists who from their distinctive perspectives will attempt to unveil notions of spectatorship and consumption of violent images in contemporary culture. Key questions will encompass the notion of the political, apolitical or depoliticised spectator of representations of violence; the consequences of these kinds of practice and the difference between photo reportage and art photography. Speakers include Shahidul Alam, Steve Edwards, Susan Meiselas, Simon Norfolk, John Roberts, Julian Stallabrass and Alberto Toscano. Lawyer Rupert Grey was a discussant. Supported by Oxford Art Journal, Oxford University Press, the Open University and the British?Council.

In a visual age, visionaries

Nii Obodai Photo by Chris Riley
Nii Obodai Photo by Chris Riley

by Chris Riley

From portraits of the men and women who made Bangladesh, to a poem to The Buriganga. From an intimate examination of the bond between two sisters and a rare skin disorder to the documentation of Chinese pollution. From Mexican magical realism to Iranian reality and the brutality of war. From students to mentors and beyond. The picture editors from Time, Geo andThe Guardian meet the Majority World as it finds both voice and vision. In among the teeming Dhaka Chobi Mela?s white background posters seem to be beacons of a new world: less depressed, less angry and newly empowered to write not only Bangladesh?s future but our own.

Ruth Eichhorn
Ruth Eichhorn from GEO magazines
Photo by Chris Riley

Last time I was here I loved the student show and this year was no different. Tutored, mentored and cajoled by Morten Krogvold a group of 25 students documented Dhaka?s human side and created a show in four days, including the shoots and the printed catalogue. Rather than descend into the depression of all of Dhaka?s problems the students plundered its substructures to elevate the fine and the fun. Idiosyncratic, profound and often simply cool, the show was a triumph of story-telling with a twist: stories told by young men and women about the goodness of the human spirit and its capacity to prevail. This work was not full of parental anger, it was full of a child?s delight. I loved it.

Continue reading “In a visual age, visionaries”

The Rolls rolls in

We show a short clip of the history of Chobi Mela in the eve of Chobi Mela VII. Appropriately linking the present to the past is a 1936 Rolls Royce which has made it’s way from the UK to participate in the festival rally.

The Grey family roll into Drik on the eve of Chobi Mela VII in their 1936 Rolls Royce
The Grey family roll into Drik on the eve of Chobi Mela VII in their 1936 Rolls Royce

Chobi Mela VII a preview from Shahidul Alam on Vimeo.

When the ricksha meets the Rolls

Rolls at Alsisar Haveli
Rolls at Alsisar Haveli

Following on from Tom Hatlestad?s epic journey from Oslo to Dhaka in a Land Rover, Rupert Grey and the Grey family, roll into town in a Rolls. It?s not just any old Rolls Royce. Rupert, a lawyer with a passion for photography, is the great grandson of the former British? prime minister Earl Grey (whom the tea is named after), whose statue adorned Westminster Abbey. A regular visitor to Chobi Mela, Rupert decided to bring his 1936 Rolls Royce to Dhaka for the festival. The antique Rolls had travelled through the Rajasthan deserts and gone along the foothills of the Himalayas and followed the Brahmaputra to Bangladesh, but was stopped at the Tamabil border, when bureaucracy kicked in.
Amphibian Rolls crossing the Brahmaputra
Amphibian Rolls crossing the Brahmaputra

The traditional method of temporary entry for cars, the carnet, had been stopped in Bangladesh and there was no law that would allow the car to make it?s final let. But as Rupert himself quotes, ?Bangladesh is also a country where everything is possible? ?and after a very long and protracted process where all the right people had to be convinced of the genuineness of the venture, and with much help from many different quarters, the car finally made it?s way into Bangladesh. Only to be stopped enroute to Dhaka because of a petrol strike.
Rupert hard at work
Rupert hard at work

The car arrives in Dhaka today and will be joining the traditional Chobi Mela rally in front of the National Museum tomorrow (the 25th January) at 3:00 pm. It is here at Chobi Mela where the rickshaw meets the Rolls.
Arshad Jamal, Khushi Kabir, Gitiara Chowdhury, Kamran Chowdhury and especially Saleh Ahmed all worked behind the scenes to make this happen. In the end though it was the Chairman of NBR who found the way to get through the legal hoops.

Shahidul Alam’s My Journey as a Witness

Rupert Grey,  media and copyright lawyer, journalist, photographer and teacher, based in Covent Garden  London.

Dr Alam’s aspiration is to teach the pixels to dance. It is a characteristically elegant and evocative phrase in comparison with the generally arid language of the digital lexicon, and it conveys the ambit of his vision and the scope of his knowledge. His Journey is a considerable one. It takes the author from a PhD in chemistry in London to photographer, political activist and educationalist in Bangladesh; it spans the 40 years since the birth of his native country, when he was 16, to its coming of age as an economic and political power amongst Asian nations.  Alam has played his part in that growing up.  He has challenged oppression and fought for justice and freedom of speech, not infrequently at considerable risk to himself and his partner Rahnuma Ahmed,[i] and he has forged an international reputation.[ii] My Journey as a Witness, published by Skira, Milan, 2011 is a self portrait of an activist who has used photography to chronicle his nation’s anguish.[iii] Continue reading “Shahidul Alam’s My Journey as a Witness”

A letter from India

Intrepid explorer, photographer and high-flying lawyer Rupert Grey is an old friend of Chobi Mela, the incomparable festival of photography that takes place in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A regular visitor, Rupert and his wife Jan are this time making their way across in their 1937 Rolls Royce. Here is a clip from their journey:

A Letter From India from Rover Films on Vimeo.
For car fanatics, here is detailed informtion on the Rolls:
Chassis no ? GUN 7
Engine number – N 25 R
Date of manufacture – 1937
Engine size – 4330 cc
Registration no – DXX 123
Colour – Black/grey
UK Registration no – AJ 0542247
They are expected in Sylhet towards the end of December. With Youtube still difficult to access in Bangladesh, we are thankful the film is in Vimeo (Please Retweet #openyoutubenow)
Welcome to Bangladesh!