Chobi Mela IX: Transitions

Imagine being told you have only ten more days. To love, to live, to celebrate, to cherish, to repent, to ponder. Perhaps ten weeks, maybe months. Perhaps you have cancer, or you are on someone’s hit list. Or you have just been sentenced.Perhaps someone thousands of miles away will press a button. Perhaps you are in jail, being tortured. Perhaps death to you is a release, and end to pain, an  acceptable price for your belief. Let’s move to happier thoughts. Perhaps you will start a new life. Maybe your first child is about to be born. You have crossed many miles and you near land. You see sunlight after years in solitary confinement. You bathe in rain after months of drought.

Maybe you have a discovery that will transform the way we live. Are you at a fork in your life as an artist? Have you embraced another medium, has someone given new meaning to your work? Is there a new visual language that will help interpret your world?

Perhaps you are seeing, or hearing for the first time. Maybe you are in love.Perhaps years of research have unearthed hidden wonders in the artistic space you walk on? Have you found a sparring partner, who stretches you to the limits of your potential? Is there a new way of seeing? Does your artistic journey, bring new relevance to the work you produce? Are you ready to emerge, as a butterfly from a chrysalis, momentarily waiting for your wings to dry?

Are you a curator whose interpretation has caused the world to look at a body of work anew? Are you on the other side of the fence, seeing what artists within have forgotten to see?  Are you prepared to take on the complexities of seeing, when doors are closed, minds are locked?  Perhaps space is your forte, and you work with the physicality of a venue, producing site-specific work that is ephemeral in its form, but eternal in its concept. Are you tied down by the shackles that define photography, or are you prepared to take flight, going outside the boundaries, reaching out to the periphery, unearthing the unknown?

Are you the old or the new, or do you not accept such definitions? Does your visual space extend to the non-visual, do you hear, touch, feel through your eyes? Is your photography trapped between the corners of a two dimensional frame, or will new relationships between dimensions be the catapult that releases your art? Do pixels move you? Are you married to grains of silver? Are objects found and unearthed, part of your domain?

Does the white cube encumber you? Do you seek open spaces? In spirit, in mind,in form. Are you able to connect the dots? Are you the artist, the curator, the scientist, the historian, the editor, the journalist, the collector, who will find the magic that will take photography to new heights? Who will tell your story? Share your thoughts, cherish those moments. Who will help you live after you die? Who will hold your hand as you dance naked in the sun, wear bright colours, sing out loud? Are you the storyteller who visualizes a changing planet?

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Postdoctor in Photography, Photography and Human Rights

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University of Gothenburg

Type of employment: Fixed-term employment, 2 years
Extent: 100 %
Location: Valand Academy, Gothenburg
First day of employment: 2016/9/1
Reference number: PER 2016/54

Valand Academy at the University of Gothenburg and the Hasselblad Foundation have a long-term partnership developing critical reflection on photography and its mediation. As part of this partnership, the Hasselblad Foundation is launching a research project on photography and human rights in Autumn 2016, and photo-based artists holding a PhD can apply to a two-year Post-Doctoral position at Valand Academy starting September 2016. The number of positions available is one.
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What Joy Bangla means today

Originally published in New Age

By Shahidul Alam

Joy Bangla in those days had not been commandeered by any political party. It was a slogan we all used. Some took it more to heart than others. I was on a rickshaw heading towards mejo chachi’s house, (she is mother of my footballer cousin Kazi Salahuddin, better known by his nickname Turjo). Seeing a friend on the road I shouted out Joy Bangla. Joy Bangla, he waved back. At mejo chachi’s the rickshawala refused to take my fare. “Joy Bangla bolsen na. apnar thon bhara loi kemne?” (You said Joy Bangla. How can I take fare from you?). Despite my insistence he wouldn’t budge. The rallying cry belonged to us all. He saw me as a fellow warrior.

On the 16th December, I had gone into a burning military convoy opposite Sakura hotel and took a partially charred Browning light machine gun as a trophy. Almost at the same site where I had seen, nine months ago, people being gunned down as they ran from the flames on the night of the 25th March. They lived in the slums near the Holiday office. Their brutal death part of a statistical count we still argue about.

Years later, I tried to put together a visual chronicle of the war. Collecting photographs from great photographers from far away lands and many local ones who had witnessed our pain, and shared our victory. There were moments of great bravery and greater sacrifice. There were moments of immense pain. The weight of great loss. Rashid Talukder’s image of the dismembered head in Rayerbazar was one of the most striking. Kishor Parekh’s sculpted frames showing, dignity, honour, elation and loss. Raghu Rai’s monumental images of seas of people seeking shelter. Captain Beg’s rare photographs of the mukti bahini during battle. Mohammad Shafi’s striking image of women smuggling grenades in half submerged baskets. Aftab Ahmed’s image of the final surrender, stoic and significant.

A woman emerges out of hiding for the first time, carrying a rifle and accompanied by her children. The family were hiding from Pakistani troops during the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971. Photo: Penny Tweedie
A woman emerges out of hiding for the first time, carrying a rifle and accompanied by her children. The family were hiding from Pakistani troops during the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971. Photo: Penny Tweedie

The image that stood out from all the others however, was by Penny Tweedie. Freelancing and without an assignment, Penny had neither the luxury of a client’s budget, nor the assurance of a publishing slot. She did the best she could, getting lifts from fellow photographers, flitting between areas of conflict and stress, she stayed close to ordinary people. People like my rickshawala friend, or the people I saw dying on the night of the 25th March. People who resisted, people who fled, people who sheltered others. People who fed people when they had little food themselves. The image of a woman, carrying a gun walking through a paddy field, with children in tow, was for me the image that encapsulated the war. These were ordinary people who had war thrust upon them. They made do, as best as they could. Bearing their pain with dignity. Fighting with no hope for return. Unlike me, they were not trophy hunters. I doubt if that woman ever made it to a muktijoddha list. I have no way of knowing if she, or her children made it through the war alive. They gave us this nation where we had all hoped we would be free. Continue reading

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Photographer Rasel Chowdhury Wins Bangladesh’s Top Contemporary Art Award

Photographer Rasel Chowdhury Wins Bangladesh’s Top Contemporary Art Award

 artnet News

Rasel Chowdhury. Photo: Sarker Protick

Documentary photographer Rasel Chowdhury beat out 300 other applicants to win this year’s Samdani Art Award. The winner was announced today at the Dhaka Art Summit, which is curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt. It is the largest showcase of South Asian contemporary art in the world.

Bangladesh’s premier art prize is awarded bi-annually to emerging artists between the ages of 22-40 living and working in the country. Chowdhury, who is a contract photographer for the New York Times and Getty, will enjoy an all-expenses paid three-month residency at the Delfina Foundation in London in order to work on his craft. Continue reading

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Kalpana’s Warriors in Delhi

THE SEARCH FOR KALPANA CHAKMA

BY SMRITI DANIEL  /  28TH JANUARY 2016

Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening
Opening of ‘Kalpana’s Warriors’ at Drik Gallery 12 June 2015 on the 19th anniversary of her abduction. Photo: Habibul Haque/Drik

 

Shahidul Alam has long been gripped by the life of a woman he has never met.

It’s been two decades since Kalpana Chakma was abducted, but Shahidul refuses to forget her. Standing at the threshold of his latest exhibition,Kalpana’s Warriors, the Bangladeshi photographer pauses for a moment.

In the room beyond is the third in a series of photo exhibitions that began with Searching for Kalpana Chakma in 2013, and was followed by 18 in 2014. The woman around whom these pictures revolve is notably absent from them. She was abducted at gunpoint in the early hours of 12 June 1996 from her home in Rangamati in Bangladesh. Her captors were a group of plain-clothed men who were recognised as being from a nearby army camp. Kalpana never returned home and her fate remains unknown.

When the exhibition first opened at the Drik Gallery in Dhaka, many of those who had been photographed could not risk coming out of hiding, yet the room was full of people who knew Kalpana’s story intimately. Some simply stood for a while before the portraits, others wept. Continue reading

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Muslin show goes ahead

As things happen in this wonderful country of ours. Problems come up and solutions emerge. Everything is now under control. We are working flat out and a fabulous show is on offer!

Just held the first copy of the book ‘Muslin, Our Story’ in my hand and the book looks absolutely fabulous! We only have a few copies for the opening, but the rest are arriving by ship. Book your copies now. They are selling like hot cakes. Boy do we have a show on our hands!

Just saw the first proof copy of the book 'Muslin Our Story' and it looks stunning!
Just saw the first proof copy of the book ‘Muslin Our Story’ and it looks stunning!

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Kalpana’s Warriors opens in Delhi

 

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Kalpana Chakma, a young leader of the Bangladeshi Hill Women’s Federation, was abducted from her home by military personnel and civilian law enforcers at gunpoint on 12 June 1996. She remains missing. Through this work, part of Drik’s ‘No More’ campaign, photographer Shahidul Alam has tried to break a silence that successive governments, whether civilian or military backed, have carefully nurtured. The exhibition uses laser etching on straw mats, an innovative technique developed specifically for this exhibition. The process involved in creating these images is rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Interviewees had repeatedly talked of the bareness of Kalpana’s home. That there was no furniture. That Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat. The straw mats were burned by a laser beam much as the fire that had engulfed the pahari villages.

Shilpakala Award recipient Shahidul Alam, set up Drik and Majority World agencies, Pathshala South Asian Media Institute and Chobi Mela festival. Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photography Society and visiting professor at Sunderland University. Alam has chaired the World Press Photo jury. Alam also introduced email to Bangladesh. His book my journey as a witness has been described as “the most important book ever written by a photographer” by legendary picture editor of Life Magazine, John Morris. He is an internationally acclaimed public speaker and has presented at Hollywood, National Geographic, re:publica, COP21 and POP Tech.

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As Drik As Possible

Climate_MigrantsThe dot matrix Olivetti printer was noisy. The XT computer came without a hard drive: two floppy disks uploaded the operating system. When the electricity went (as it often did), we had to reload it. Our bathroom doubled as our darkroom. A clunky metal cabinet housed our prints, slides, negatives and files. Anisur Rahman and Abu Naser Siddique were our printers; I was photographer, manager, copy editor and part-time janitor. Cheryle Yin-Lo, an Australian who had read about us in a magazine, joined as our librarian. We offered and she happily accepted a local salary. In god we trust

My partner Rahnuma Ahmed often got roped in when we were short-staffed, which was often. That was 25 years ago. Little experience and zero cash rarely got in the way: we started publishing from day one. Postcards, bookmarks (often using offcuts from the press) and even a company calendar were produced by friendly printers who printed on credit. Residents of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, used to seeing flowers, pretty women, mosques and waterfalls, suddenly woke up to social messages in black and white on their wall calendars. It worked, and we were able to sell them door-to-door and pay back the printers – until there was a flood and half our stock got inundated.

My Garden in the WildsTired of being pitied for our poverty, and do-gooder attempts to ‘save’ us, we had decided to become our own storytellers. And did we have stories to tell! Our agency Drik, grew, and we picked up many loyal friends and several powerful enemies along the way. Knowing we had to compete with better-resourced entities in the West, we set up the nation’s first email network using Fidonet. Banglarights, our human rights portal, annoyed the government; our telephone lines were switched off for 30 months. Mainstream galleries turned down exhibitions which were shamelessly political and often critical of the establishment, so we built our own. The government sent riot police to close down our shows on several occasions. Being stabbed in the street, arrested, and generally persecuted became some of the more troubling after-effects of our activism, but a nationwide campaign to reopen our gallery, and a court ruling in our favour, convinced us that the person on the street was on our side. That was all the ammunition we needed. Ballakot Rubble 8246

Along the way, we had set up a photo school, Pathshala, now recognized as being among the finest in the world. We also set up a photo festival, Chobi Mela. Again, a highlight of the Asian cultural calendar. Geed up by what we’d achieved in Bangladesh, we set our sights on challenging the global world order. Majority World was born, a platform for local photographers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East with their own stories to tell.

Rescue OperationActivism didn’t pay the bills though and competing in the market place, often with professionals we ourselves had trained, required us to remain cutting edge. Clients cared less for ‘good intentions’ than they did for good delivery and value for money. It was comforting therefore when a prestigious international client, mentioned in the ‘special instruction’ section that she wanted the work to be “As Drik as possible.” Call me Heena

As the organisation grew, we needed better management, stricter controls, increased efficiency and lower costs. This led to a culture shift which didn’t come easily to a group that had grown up like a family and had gotten used to working in a particular way. Our new CEO reminded us, that producing the perfect product was gratifying, but getting it to market on time and within budget, was just as important.

Meeting man's greedDrik today is a role model for the majority world, but a world that is changing. Twenty five years ago, it made sense to start from the ground up. Today we tap into fine professionals we ourselves have groomed, and take them to the international arena. Long term strategy, succession plans and a more global vision are the concerns of the day. It’s a lean, agile and creative organisation run by a younger team, ready for tomorrow. Rejoicing at Ershad's fall

Drik’s ultimate strength however, has been the people who have rallied around us. This includes the people who work here, but goes way beyond it. People, all across the globe, across all conventional barriers, who have believed in us, and stood by us, in the many difficult moments we’ve shared, through many dark nights and days. We owe our very survival to them. Some we have lost forever. Others have stayed away from the limelight, happy to bask in our success from afar. While they have never wanted or expected anything in return, we shall remain indebted to them. This publication is a tribute to them all.

Those we have loved and lost

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All credits and supplementary text available in Flickr page

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Posted in Arts, Bangladesh, Crossfire, culture, Drik and its initiatives, Human rights, Islam, Kalpana Chakma, Law, Military, Pathshala, Photography, Photojournalism, RAB, Religion, Shahidul Alam, South Asia, Sports, Technology, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

As Drik as Possible

Introduction to the Drik 2016 calendar.

A behind the scenes glimpse at a remarkable media phenomenon:

The dot matrix Olivetti printer was noisy. The XT computer came without a hard drive: two floppy disks uploaded the operating system. When the electricity went (as it often did), we had to reload it. Our bathroom doubled as our darkroom. A clunky metal cabinet housed our prints, slides, negatives and files. Md. Anisur Rahman and Abu Naser Siddique were our printers; I was photographer, manager, copy editor and part-time janitor. Cheryle Yin-Lo, an Australian who had read about us in a western magazine, joined as our librarian. We offered and she happily accepted a local salary.

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Posted in Arts, Bangladesh, Crossfire, culture, Democracy, Drik and its initiatives, economy, environment, Garments, Human rights, Kalpana Chakma, Majority World, Military, Pathshala, Photography, Photojournalism, politics, RAB, Resistance, Shahidul Alam, South Asia, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7/7 Survivor: Why we should not bomb Syria

The major reason for not bombing Syria is the diminishing of our humanity and civilisation.

Anti-war protesters demonstrate against proposals to bomb Syria outside the Houses of Parliament in London [REUTERS]

Anti-war protesters demonstrate against proposals to bomb Syria outside the Houses of Parliament in London [REUTERS]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Tulloch

John Tulloch is a British university lecturer who is best known as a survivor of the July 7, 2005 London Bombings. Continue reading

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