Dhaka 2013: Chobi Mela VII
The sweeping gestures of photography have thrived on extremes. Great things, epic moments, the wretched, the vile, the dispossessed, the celebrated and the trodden, have all found themselves facing the lens. Photography has exalted suffering, celebrated the vain. Quiet moments, reflective spirits, the hesitant step, the furtive glance have rarely made headlines. Perceived as being unworthy of the shutter.
The shutter speed of 125th of a second reserved for momentous slices of time, never slows down enough to listen to the sighs of the silent. Photography therefore is a selective witness. The history it records, a filtered history. It is a filtration different from the dominant narrative of the victor that history has been guilty of. This is more insidious, as it seeps into the very core of our consciousness. I smile for my grandma’s camera. The photojournalist waits for my tear to drop. The moments in between go unrecorded. A staccato history of grand gestures and seminal moments fails to record the nuanced lives we all live.
The medium has been digital all along. The black and whites of photography have largely failed to register the grey ambiguities of the human panorama, the binary perceptions that shape photographic vision failing to respond to subtlety. The everydayness of our lives with its tapestry of emotions, too plain to register amongst the dramatic peaks and troughs that photography has been measured by.
It is only through fissure that fragility has registered. It is only on being trampled that the delicate has been lamented. The staunch pillars of photography have rarely let light through the cracks. The frailty of a lost thought, the uncertainty of the first touch, are the insignificants that a camera passes by. The fragility of a tortured earth, the slow death of a glacier, the disappearance of the honeybee, too slow a change to register in 125th of a second.
In a gendered world fragility is not macho enough. In a misogynist industry, to pause is to be effeminate. Where sex and violence are the opiates we are fed on, quieter moments do not even make the ‘B roll’. A sob too insignificant, to register on a megapixel sensor.
We look for those fleeting moments. A gossamer of gentle thoughts billowing in turbulent winds. An unraveling strand of humanity bending against the onslaught of invasive culture. The frail existence of a marginal farmer eking out a living in the shadows of engineered genes. Communities holding out against the rising tide of modernity. Lost languages, vanishing cultures, disappearing forests, all entwined by a vulnerability, familiar to those who resist market forces.
In an economy gasping for breath, in an ecosystem reeling under consumption, waste and the ravages of war, the greed of a few threaten the future of many. We challenge you to push back the tide of unbridled growth and lay your stake to a sustainable universe. It is only by embracing the fragility of this world that we will make it your own.
Shahidul Alam, Festival Director
Chobi Mela – International Festival of Photography
January 25 to February 7, 2013
House 58, Road 15A (New),
Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209