Lessons of Darkness

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Abir Abdullah

By Mrs. Deane

abir1.jpg
from Death Traps — Tales of a Mega Com­mu­nity © Abir Abdullah

Abir Abdul­lah is another fig­ure on the fore­front of Bangladeshi (doc­u­men­tary) pho­tog­ra­phy. He is a very engaged prac­ti­tioner as well, as his series Death Trapsshows, which is lit­er­ally awe­some, and with which he hopes to awaken the con­scious­ness of those hold­ing the power to effec­tu­ate a change for the better.

abir3.jpg
from Death Traps — Tales of a Mega Com­mu­nity © Abir Abdullah

The Tale he tells is har­row­ing enough: “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.”

abir2.jpg
from Death Traps — Tales of a Mega Com­mu­nity © Abir Abdullah

Amidst this chaos, Abdul­lah manoeu­vres with the nerve of the war pho­tog­ra­pher, bring­ing home images that con­jure up scenes from Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Dark­ness, fea­tur­ing the oil well fire fight­ers in Kuwait after the Gulf-War. Makes me wish for mak­ing funds avail­able for trained experts to come to Dhaka and teach essen­tials to and exchange their tales and expe­ri­ence with the civil­ians and vol­un­teers risk­ing their lives for oth­ers in deeds that may be heroic, but that should not have to be done in the first place. That, and many other mea­sures to improve and save lives, not exploit them.

NB: Abir Abdul­lah’s work is also part of Metrop­o­lis 2.0, which opens later this week in Dubai at the (this time not so empty) Empty Quar­ter Gallery.

Published October 17, 2011 & Filed in Catch all

Abir Abdullah was one of the first batch of students from Pathshala, The South Asian Media Academy, and went on to become the school’s vice principal (2009-2011). He later worked at Drik Picture Library and currently works for the European Press Agency EPA.

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