Tales From a Globalising World

Photo: Philip Jones Griffiths
Tales From a Globalising World
Before the white man took black slaves across the Atlantic, before the Romans marched their armies across Europe, before Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha and Krishna brought new meanings to our lives, people had reached across the boundaries of their known world to reach for the unknown. They searched for power, for wealth, for salvation for escape. Though the world has changed the forces are largely the same. Photographers, the modern day storytellers, tell the tales of these new journeys. Ten photographers from different nations and different sensibilities take us along their routes. They hold our hands, for we are all strangers in this slippery and winding path.
They talk of promised lands and unrealized dreams. Of struggles, triumphs and contradictions. Of unseen poverty and empty glamour. Of wounds that have healed and of new forms of enslavement. Of mixed identities and changing fortunes. Globalization is not new, and colonialism is not dead. The search for roots competes with the search for utopia. But In a world where new fears give rise to new forms of oppression and corporate interests create the new rules of engagement, fragments of memory compete with visions of imagined futures while reality in its many forms, across nations and across cultures, continues to shape our lives. Through tender, provocative, abstract and sometimes brutal images, through lost childhoods and regained lives, through dense ghettos and lonely faces, through found mementos and anonymous production lines, through images of hope and visions of despair, the storytellers of today remind us of the invisible threads that connect us all.
Photo: Andreas Seibert
Somewhere from Nowhere
China, Pearl River Delta: 21st-century megalopolis
They once had dreams. Huddled at dusk into the back of a truck that appears to move into the night, they?ve traded their dreams for the harsh realities of makeshift homes. They build boutiques, condominiums, fancy homes for fancy people. They will never enter the homes they build or shop in the fancy malls. Their only chance to enter the condominiums is as a domestic servant or as a delivery boy. The dream of the big city where the streets are paved with gold only survive in the electronic TV screens in cramped dorms. There is a certain universality in their existence. The stark faces lit in the cool neon lights in Andreas Seibert?s rendering of migrants in China?s Pearl River Delta, have an eerie resemblance to the faces in the sweatshops in Europe. The man crossing the barren field to the tenement squares could easily be songwriter Ralph McTell?s old woman in London:
She’s no time for talking
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags
Photo: Thomas Kern
Homeland of Globalization
USA: from Detroit to the Mexican border
They had talked of a world without borders. Of freedom for all. Of opportunities unlimited. But the mobility of people did not parallel the mobility of goods. The notions of freedom do not apply equally to all nations, the search for freedom changes into the quest to protect ?American Values?. Huge inequalities across borders and between communities create isolated groups that find more solace in guns and the cross than in reaching across barriers of class and race. Factory floors transform people into robots. The champions of consumerism come face to face with poverty and discontent. The glitter of Las Vegas loses its sparkle in the relief queues in black neighborhoods. Amidst the rhetoric and the slogans, through the memorials and the sit-ins, the biggest war machine in existence searches blindly for peace. Wrapped in the metaphor of the American flag, they continue to ask ?Why do they hate us?? without once stopping to look at themselves.
Photo: Cristina Nu?ez
Made in Italy
Italy, Milan and Naples: parallel worlds of fashion
They tell us what to wear, how to look, what to feel. They shape our desires. Anorexic women tread waiflike along catwalks as if suspended in space. Swirling amidst the popping flashlights, they walk in measured gait. In calculated gestures, they cast vacant glances, looking into space. Celebrities and brand names team up to create a make belief bubble that longs to be touched but is never within reach. It is a world within itself, celebratory, narcissistic, trend setting. Back in the dressing room, the make-belief world slowly merges with reality. Peeling off layers, Nu?ez strips down the mask to reveal the world beneath. The sweatshops, the hopefuls and the also-rans switch between the real world, the fake world and the make belief world in no particular order for the borders are often blurred.
Photo: Stephan Vanfleteren
Facing Stories
Belgium: the poverty of loneliness
GDP, GNP, per capita income. These are the measuring sticks of progress. First world, second world, developing world the tiers of development. As nations strive to move up the value chain to greater wealth and greater prosperity, they leave behind the fabric of human connectedness that bind our souls. The second car becomes more important than the time spent with a friend. Not everyone makes it to the speeding train of progress. Some fail to catch it, some step out willingly, some slip off the packed rooftops. But it is a speeding train, and once it goes by, is difficult to stop. The ladder of success has rules of engagement, and those who fail to understand the rules, never make it to the goalposts. They dream, they love, they despair, they cling to familiar haunts, to known friendships. Lonely friends unite in their solitude, be it drugs, a lover, a pet, an old harmonica.
Photo: Shehzad Noorani
Childhood Denied
Nepal, India, Bangladesh: struggle to survive
The child is lonely in a crowd. The island in the middle of a busy road offers a brief respite, but hunger gnaws away, and work must begin. The employment differs, from cleaning kitchens near the fish market, to satisfying men with a hunger for more than food. The train station, the local brothel, the dock, the crowded slum, offers shelter, sometimes food, but always demands something in return. It is an equation they have learnt early and is far more real than the maths equations which they will never learn. They leave homes, friends, family, sometimes forever, returning perhaps only to die. Race, religion and class and all other tools of social oppression, combine to ensure that those born poor will die poor. Like the snail without a shell they wander through life, moving from ?uncles? to ?husbands? to ?masters? and ?bosses?, accepting whatever is dished out to keep the hunger away for another day.
Photo: Ziyo Fafic
Quest for Identity
Bosnia-Herzegovina: recovery from war
Sombre clouds over dense mountains. Square pictures saturated in colour. Neat rows of coffins, bodies of the only ones recognisable after the genocide. A comb, a watch, an old note, dentures, bent spectacles. How does one represent war? What is the image of bereavement? What colour is pain? For a young man who has been through war, it is a difficult portrait to paint. But Ziyo Gafic paints it with muted light. Unsentimental, but tender, he observes from within. It is not only grief that he photographs, but survival. Muslim but white, European but Muslim, white but poor, Gafic takes on the dilemma of his identity and gives it form. The solidity of a bridge over placid water. The luminescence of transparent plastic bags over dense foliage carrying the remains of known ones. The earthiness of digging a grave, the silence of a morgue, the weightlessness of objects of everyday use, form the background of his tapestry. But through it all the carefree leap of a child, defying gravity, exuding joy, remains a lasting image.
Photo: Tim Hetherington
Healing Sport
Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya: ways out
The weather-beaten fingers hold the ball firmly. A torn scarf, strings tied together and bits of cloth make up this football. Small and not quite round it is held as it should be. A prized possession. Bob Kpwilo of Millenium Stars Football Team (formerly Power from Heaven), stands in the middle of the field, the sweat on his dark skin glistens in the soft light. They are footballers. Masters of takwondo. Sometimes they are glue sniffers, or child soldiers, or all of them at once. In bare classrooms and overcrowded cities, they practice sport in the shadows of war. The children are pawns of competing warlords. The countries are pawns of wealthy nations. To slave traders, gold miners and oil diggers, Africa is just a pawn. But these children want to play a different game. They have been torn from their parents, wounded in battle, blown up by mines. They have been raped. They have raped, they have killed. But these are games they will no longer play. With wooden limbs, blinded eyes and scarred minds, they?ve chosen sport as their answer. They?ve chosen games without pawns.
Photo: Bertien van Manen
Paradise in Boxes
France: immigrants in the Paris suburbs
They generally stare at the camera. Young children, couples, families wearing their best clothes. Young men in football gear. Propped up on the mantelpiece, or held against the favourite carpet. Sometimes it is a photograph of their home, or their wedding day, or their identity card with a faded photograph. Lodged between teacups or stuck on a window, they show different realities. Lives they have found and lives they have left behind. Which is more real? Who is the man through the broken glass? What are we looking at, the photograph on the windowpane or the Parisian cityscape beyond? The flare from the flash bounces rudely off the print. The prints stuck between a gilded frame and the wallpaper compete for attention with the artifacts of living. The duality of these images plays on the duality of their existence. Here, there, now, then, before, after. A self exiled existence that rarely turns out the way it was planned. A choice that was not really chosen.
Photo: Philip Jones Griffiths
Independence and Transition
Vietnam: values, old and new
They put poison in their fields. Mothers still bear children with twisted limbs and enlarged heads. They still die of cancer. Between 1961 and 1971 the US military used the herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam. On March 10 2005, judge Jack Weinstein dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. No Vietnamese have ever received compensation for the damages they have suffered. But the country has changed in many ways. A giant bill-board hovers over a paddy field, towering above a farmer with her bamboo hat. For Philips Jones Griffiths, the author of Vietnam Inc., the signs of westernisation give mixed signals. Belly dancers, mobile phones and yuppie kids might show a Vietnam moving west, but Griffiths also sees the other side of the coin. The mannequins modeled on western features and urban poverty as farmers are pushed into the cities show the erosion of value systems that capitalism threatens to destroy.
Photo: Akinbode Akinbiyi
Black Atlantic Divinities
Nigeria and Brazil, Lagos and Brazilia: migrant gods and returnees
They embraced all the gods. Their ancient ones, the ones of their brothers and sisters under oppression, even the ones of their oppressors. Moving across the ocean, the music, the architecture, the culture, the religion, fused into one. Three centuries of slave trade have created a bond across continents. The African beat and the colours of Brazil, immerse in each other. The chaos, the vitality, the fervour, the passion all become one. Yoruba, Candombl?, Umbanda, three religions with blurred borders, protect the mixed communities on either side of the Atlantic. The collective gods punish evildoers and the insolent, but also protect motorcars, overlook wars and ensure justice and creativity. The shrines, the rituals, the symbols, the art, are preserved in the mixed cultural roots of the Africans of the west coast and Brazilians. Their bondage has led to a shared sense of divinity. They dance and they pray together. Out of the darkness came light.
Shahidul Alam
7th July 2007, Dhaka
Photo: Md. Mainuddin/Drik
Tales From a Globalising World exhibition being packed at Drik Gallery in Dhaka for shipping to La Paz, Bolivia.
Drik Gallery presents
30 years of photojournalism: Manoocher Deghati
Photo: Manoocher Deghati
In the summer of 1978, Manoocher Deghati educated as a filmmaker, returned to Iran after three years of studies at the Rome school of cinema just as the first major demonstrations against the regime of the Shah were breaking out. He decided to photograph these events. “I remember going out the first day with a camera in hand. There was a great deal of agitation. A truckload of soldiers rolled by. One of them loaded his rifle and fired at me. The burst of bullets passed on either side of my head. I was alive. I was shocked. But above all, I realized that I was a target because I was taking pictures. That only reinforced my determination to take pictures.”
In 1979, the Sipa Press agency had asked him to become a permanent correspondent in Iran. Manoocher photographed all the big events of the new regime of Khomeini, the hostage crisis at the American embassy and the Iran-Iraq war, which he covered for six years. Currently he is the head of IRIN Photo, the United Nations’ News Agency, and lives in Kenya
Manoocher Deghati will present his work on the 18th July 2007 at 6:00 pm at the ULAB Campus Auditorium. Manoocher will also talk about his work with Afghani photographers at AINA Media Centre in Kabul.
4th floor ULAB Campus
House 56, Road 4/A
Dhanmondi Residential Area

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.”

15 thoughts on “Tales From a Globalising World”

  1. …all the tales from the globalizing world somehow seems so familiar…yet each story has something new…a different tale of oppression and injustice…
    …many times i have heard people mentioning the agent orange…never felt interested to know more about it…but searched the internet after reading about Philip Jones Griffiths’ story and was really shocked…maybe nothing new for the US warlords, they are so used to staff like this…but each time i read about these stories i feel more and more crippled inside…
    …life is so unjust!…

  2. So powerfull and meaningfull to start my day in the Port of Veracruz, M?xico. Thinking how many people (my good bandus of the DRIK Family) are fighting with one camera in one hand and the hearth in the other, motivating people to look… to think!
    Congratulations for the exhibiton! its a pitty that I missed the chance to enjoy it!
    Greatings for all good friends!

  3. Very impressive Shahidul – well done. Drik has done and is doing amazing things for Bangladesh. I am in Australia at the moment and will be out of Dhaka for most of July. When is the exhibition ‘Tales form a Globalising world’?
    Best wishes

  4. Will “Tales from a Globalising World” come to anywhere in the US? It
    looks like an excellent show — and printed / curated from Dhaka?
    Wonderful. I hope all is well with you and Drik. I look forward to the
    day we get to work together on something. It’s never very far from mind.
    If you or people you know have ideas that might work for SAW, you know
    I’m always happy to brainstorm.
    All warm best,
    Dick Doughty
    Managing Editor
    Saudi Aramco World

  5. Dear Shahidul Alam: it is always such a breath of such creative, clean, fresh, original air to hear from you and to read your picturesque words about images. Just for your info, from working on the chars in the Jamuna, then to northern Afghanistan, now I’m in Kashmir working with communities in earthquake reconstruction. I am really glad to see your website now and look forward to your next news from DRIK.
    Jane Thomas

  6. Dear Shahidul,
    The temptation for more and better of this world rather than happiness that comes with simplicity of life, has led us far far away from the path God had in mind for us.
    However, in His mercy He gave the power of thinking and choice. We now forget that human existence on Earth is an experiment by Him and a test for His creation that we are.
    Best wishes,

  7. Thanks a lot dear Shahidul,
    The strangers do meet on the winding and slippery path….do realise that there is a bond between strangers—a bond of pain and suffering and a will to stop this nonsense!!!
    May be we are the sons and daughters of sorrow but the bond that transcends all barriers and links us with togetherness will lead to dawn…..
    Will this exhibition ever come to India?
    Sanjay Dev

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