Chobi Mela and Bangladeshi photographers excel at National Geographic

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You may be forgiven for thinking that the results of the National Geographic All Roads project had been fixed by me. Two out of the four main awardees and two out of the five
honourable mentions were from my list! Those of you who were here for Chobi
Mela III will recognise the work of three of the photographers listed here.
Shehzad was not involved in the festival, but has been a regular contributor
to Drik for many years. Neo spent a year at Pathshala as a Fredskorpset
participant. I am enclosing my introductions to the photographers that I had
submitted to the National Geographic.

 The festival opens at the Egyptian Theater in LA on the 21st September 2005.
Or else you could come to the 2nd part of the festival at the National
Geographic headquarters at Washington D.C. from the 29th September to the 1
st October. There is a morning seminar on the 30th. You will get to meet All
Roads Advisory Board members, photo program awardees, magazine editors,
filmmakers, and artists from around the world.

 The blurb from Geographic:

 Photographer Panel Discussion

*"Camera and Culture: The myth of objective documentation"*

Is documentary photography inherently objectifying? Can comprehensive
documentation be done through non-native eyes? Is there an unspoken
universal morality in documentary work?

 Please join us for a candid and interactive panel discussion exploring
these issues and more at both festival venues. Panelists will include *All**
Roads Photographers Program 2005 Awardees*, world-renowned photographer *
Reza*, and award-winning International Editor & Curator *Shahidul Alam*; the
discussion will be moderated by National Geographic Magazine, Senior Editor
*John Echave*.

Please see below for times at each location:

*L.A.**:*
Saturday September 24, 2-3:15 pm, Egyptian Theater

or

*D.C.:*
Saturday Oct.1, 2-3:15 pm Grosvenor Auditorium

  And now the photographers:

 Neo Ntsoma:

 Neo Ntsoma is a complex person. High strung, energetic, intense,
passionate, laughing, crying, running, leaping, she is in the middle of
everything and everywhere. A spring ready to uncoil. She is also deceptively
perceptive. Having faced racism, in every guise, she has toughened herself
to face life's challenges. But it is her black identity that has emerged as
the soul within her work. She rejoices in her colour and rejoices in colour.
Her search for identity within the black South African youth, is no
nostalgic trip down memory lane, but rather a buoyant leap at the crest of
the wave of youth which captures

the energy, the dynamism, the joy of a youth determined to find its own
expression. It is the raw energy of her work that attracts me.

 Sudharak Olwe:

 Olwe's photographs have a Dickensian construction that reflect the
complexities of the lives he portrays. Fine detail. Frames crammed with
information. Seemingly superfluous data spilling over the rim of the frame.
Photographs charged with an energy that perhaps talk of the people he
portrays. People who eke out everything they can from a life that has had
the nutrients pulled out a long time ago. With visual elements jostling for
space, Olwe's multilayered images reflect the layered hierarchy of a class
and caste system that have permanently relegated those in the bottom of the
rung. A rung is perhaps a deceptive metaphor, as a ladder suggests the
ability to climb. For Olwe's characters, there is no exit. No happy ending.
Tomorrow is no different from today. So the characters themselves, squeeze
every inch out of life. Ironically, in dealing with a life with very limited
options, they live life to the full. Much as the frames of Olwe's
construction.

 Abir Abdullah:

 There are few photographers I have come across who have maintained as high
a level of integrity as Abir Abdullah. I have observed him as a student, as
a fellow photographer, as a colleague, a fellow tutor and a friend. At all
stages, he has been exemplary in the way he has upheld the values that
photojournalists live by.

 A fine photographer, Abir is also a sensitive individual whose work
reflects the attachment he has for his subjects. Though he is currently
employed as a wire photographer, his approach has never been superficial,
and he has relied on his ability to build relationships with his subjects.

 It is this sensitivity, and the respect that he has for people that I feel
comes through in Abir's work, and is eventually the underlying strength of
his photography.

 Shehzad Noorani:

 Noorani's life has shaped much of what he photographs. A child worker who
got caught raiding a neighbour's kitchen for food, is an unlikely candidate
for a successful career in photography. But statistics are very poor at
predicting life as it unfolds. A need to feed the family led to Shehzad
having to ensure that the money kept flowing in. This he did with consummate
ease by being one of those rare photographers who always deliver on time, to
specification and to highly exacting standards. This thorough professional
however, is also a skilled artist, who has combined his human skills with a
wonderful eye that finds things other eyes may have missed. It is the
subaltern that Shehzad has photographed, but not through pitiful eyes, or
some romantic notion of charity, but through a genuine understanding of what
being poor is. His tenacity, his ability to push himself and his unusual
duality between the disciplined professional and the gifted artist, makes
Shehzad special.

 Dear Shahidul:

We would like to thank you for taking the time to send in your nominations
for the 2005 class of the *All** Roads Photographers Program*. On Monday
July 18th four Awardees, and five Honorable Mentions were selected from a
very talented and diverse pool of nominees. As a matter of fact, having five
Honorable mentions is a testimony to the high quality of the photoessays.

The final awardees are: *Marcela Taboado*: Women of Clay (Mexico); *Sudharak
Olwe*: In search of Dignity and justice: the untold story of Mumbai's
conservancy workers* *(India); *Neo Ntsoma* South African Youth ID – Kwaito
Culture (South Africa); and *Andre Cypriano*: Rocinha, An Orphan Town (
Brazil).

And the honorable mentions are: *Shehzad Noorani:* The Children of Black
Dust – That child who wants to live (Bangladesh), *Abir Abdullah*: Old Dhaka
(We were born here and will die here…) (Bangladesh) , *Walter
Mesquita:*Viva Favela Project (BrazilMahalla,)
*Rena Effendi:* Faces of Change (Azerbaijan) , *
Gia Chkhatarashvili:* Ushguli, A Village at a Crossroad (Rep. of Georgia)

We were most pleased with the nominations and encourage you to please start
thinking of qualified photographers for next year!

 Warm Regards,

Chris Rainier and Eduardo Abreu
All Roads Photographers Program
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