Pathshala, the Tree of Knowledge
Apart from my long friendship with Shahidul who had invited me to be ‘the first teacher’ at the Pathshala photography institute, I admired the name he had given it. Pathshala evokes the idea of a school set under a tree in the common imagination. However, in the East as we know it, the reality of this teaching resides in an apprenticeship integrated with nature, the environment, part of a relationship with the world around us.
Photography in all its incarnations is a universal and individual mode of expression whose role in the 21st century is crucial. I rediscovered Bangladesh when, the first day of my arrival, I reviewed the portfolios of the top students. As the images do not betray the inherent truth of the person who captured it and for us they are the open books in which I read easily the personality of the photographer, in each of these portfolios, I saw the potential of a thinker, a philosopher, a poet, a revolutionary. They all have a common passion that I share with them: to use images to connect oneself to the rest of the world, to be heard and to open a dialogue with the world, with the ultimate goal being to contribute to a better future for humanity.
Ever since then, the symbolic branches of the Pathshala tree beneath which these students have gathered have spread and multiplied. Indeed, since then, these students have gone on to win a great number of international photography awards, their photographs have been exhibited in the most prestigious exhibition spaces, and have been selected in festivals. Of course their various visual intentions have won the admiration of visitors and professionals the world over. They have participated with their work to spread knowledge about their country and the things that matter, to a wide international audience. But, and this is the most important, these branches of the tree which have grown have in no way cast a shadow on the new apprentices of photography. On the contrary, each of the first students has in turn become a teacher. The wheel of transmission of knowledge turns inexorably and fulfills its destiny.
Paris 24 July 2009
With the Wind Against Your Face
There is little as pleasurable as being surprised by one’s students. The role of a teacher never used to be simply about providing information. In the new media age, where Google, wikis and online libraries are primary repositories of information, a teacher plays an even more different role. Our job is to open windows, encourage free-thinking, nurture curiosity and creativity. Hopefully to inspire passion.
It is not an easy path either for the teacher or the students. It requires trust, mutual respect, the ability to let go and freedom in both directions to explore, falter, and to reinvent oneself. Self-questioning is an essential ingredient of the process, a practice rarely found, and even less valued.
So to find students who have produced work that is not only original, but which questions one’s own practice, and does so provocatively and well, is the breath of fresh air that every musty classroom needs. There is no stronger disinfectant than fresh ideas. No stronger work ethic than to stretch oneself to the limit of one’s ability. No greater pleasure than to take flight into uncharted territory, without a parachute.
The earth beneath is firm, the stick held by the hand is strong, the dry leaves on the floor are uprooted, and HER shadow distanced from HER home Once an inhabitant of Srinagar, Bikrampur; 93 years old, Anjuman Begum lives now at this old age home. And she ponders over the word, home. Anjuman Begum says strongly, I want my body buried here; in this old age home. I have made my funeral preparations as well. She had sighed before she left, unfortunate!
Pathshala’s culture has been steeped in the documentary tradition. Classical styles of storytelling. Linear narratives interjected with powerful narratives. Strong stories powerfully told, often in black and white, but also based on a black and white value system, where the evil is identifiable, monolithic. Where the fence is clearly defined. An individual’s role unambiguous.
This has been both the strength and the weakness of our practice. Talented students have done remarkably well, using this tried and tested method. Their achievements at an international level has been unprecedented. They have been the torch bearers of Bangladeshi photography and this remarkable school. But their success has also created the boundaries that the next generation of photographers must overcome. Success is emulated. Styles are copied. Peers glide in the slipstreams.
It is this history that makes these particular bodies of work stand out. In the face of such a strong tradition of classical humanistic photography, the students in this collective have tried to find their own space. As in all explorations, the level of success varies. As in all unmapped journeys, different destinations are reached. As in all experiments, the outcomes are unpredictable. It is this diversity of practice that excites me the most. The baggage is still there, and strong influences must not be rejected merely because they exist. But it is the ability to peer over the cliff. The urge to walk on wobbly pebbles. The confidence to shun the obvious that I feel we must celebrate.
Land of the Free
The real school is life itself. These little boats of creativity will be battered by many jagged rocks, some will disappear in the sea. But these brave sailors I believe will survive. For they have learnt the movement of the tides, have studied the prevailing winds, and know how to map their paths by the light of the stars.
I have no way of knowing where they will find themselves, but am happy in the knowledge that they also have strong wings.
Dhaka, 22nd July 2009
Opening of Exhibition: Perspectives
Pathshala takes great pleasure in inviting you to its annual exhibition and certificate giving ceremony on Friday, the 7th of August 2009 at 5pm. The event will take place at Drik Gallery, Dhaka.
Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus will inaugurate the exhibition as the chief guest. Senior photographers Mr. Bijon Sarkar and Mr. Naibuddin Ahmed will grace the event as the guests of honour. The photographic exhibition Perspectives comprises bodies of work by Pathshala’s graduating students. It portrays life on a bigger canvas with interpretations of faith, dreams, stigma, class diversity, social injustice and cultural changes.
A photo book Perspectives by the graduating students will also be launched at this event.
The exhibition will remain open for all till 12th August 2009,
3 pm to 9 pm every day
Thanks to Aviva Cashmira Kakar, Naghma Imdad and Estelle Eonnet for translations, and to World Press Photo Foundation and Chris Boot for helping kick-start the process way back on the 18th December 1998.
Shahidul Alam’s Masterclass in Shantou
The opening was a great success, but also a tearful affair. After an intensive workshop it was time for us to part. But in Bangla you never say goodbye, you say ‘ashi’ (I’ll come again).
Wen Jie comes to his neighbor and friend, Zhou Jinhan’s home at noon, and prepare to go out to find jobs together. Zhou, 19, also has not finished his high school, and he lost job for right-sizing. © Dave
When he was 7 years old Wang Xin Xin’s parents had heard that here in Shantou there was a school which trained Ma Lin, Liu Guozheng to elite athletes. Although Shantou was really far from their hometown, they still send their son to the school. © Du Yi Fang
Migrant workers in Shantou. At night, the mother, a cleaner at a hospital, takes her children to the market. She earns 900 yuan per month. Every morning at 5 o’clock, rides her bicycle to work. © Leah Wong
Animal experiments often disregard animal rights. On the other hand, the experiments have led to cures for many human illnesses. Workers at an animal experimental laboratory, recognise the dilemma. A scientist, strokes a mouse used for experiments. © Zhang Zeng Le
Principal Yin gathered 1.6 million to build the school. Every year, the rent of these old house costs 200 thousand. The school can barely make ends meet, but principal Yin insists on paying his teachers well. © Leah Liu
Xu Yaxiong is a student of Shantou Table Tennis School. He is from Jiangxi. His working class parents have led him to migrate successively to Shanghai and Shantou, in the hope that success in table tennis will lead him to a better future. Imperceptibly, the parents’ destiny is decided through the child’s destiny. © Huben
Monks are also common people. They have happiness, sorrow, anguish, disappointment, anger, lure and pride. There is no painless way of being a male religious living in a cloister and devoting himself to contemplation and prayer. The tree at this temple is a symbol of both their struggle and their strength. © Kira
Liu Jiansheng, 45, comes from Ganzhou Jiangxi Province, now he lives in Jinlong village in Tuopu Town of Shantou city. When he was a child, a doctor gave him the wrong injection which led to his disability. He doesn’t ask for help from anyone, but works as a mechanic to feed his family. © Leila
With man’s encroachment into their natural habitat, these birds are facing extinction. © Zheng Kang Hua
Shantou Special School for the Deaf and Dumb is the only special school in the east of Guangdong. Fang Zhunjin clears his baggage after returning from the Qingming Festival. © Pure
Abir Abdullah wins first prize
Tabriz International Photo Contest on the Unity of Muslims
International Color Awards
Child labour in Bangladesh
AKASH GMB – Bangladesh
Munir uz zaman in the Guardian
Munem Wasif at Mall Galleries London
Prix Pictet Commission:
Mall Galleries, London
9 – 21 March 2009
Young children look for small fish in the mud. Vamia, Satkhira. 2008
In 2008 Pictet supported one of the projects of the UK charity WaterAid, who work in the developing world to help communities gain access to clean water, safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.
WaterAid is currently working on a number of projects in Bangladesh where over 65 million of the total population of 140 million have no access to basic sanitation. In association with Pictet’s support for WaterAid, the Prix Pictet 2008 shortlisted artist, Munem Wasif, was commissioned to visit the Satkhira region of south-west Bangladesh, where there are severe water issues.
In Satkhira every year thousands of people die from easily preventable water related diseases. As a result of climate change and unplanned shrimp farming, the area experiences frequent natural disasters, erratic rainfall and a steady increase in the salinity of the water table.
Shajhan Siraj and his brothers push boats through low tide into the sea. The boats are filled with fresh water which they have collected inland. It takes the brothers up to three hours to make the journey each day. Datinakhali, Satkhira. 2008
Established structures of work and societies centred on work have largely broken down. Farmers are reduced to occasional labour and many people have to travel huge distances to find fresh water, fish and housing materials, all of which used to be available closer to home. In so doing they expose themselves to a terrifying array of risks, including attacks from dog sharks and king cobras to, ironically, the endangered Bengal tiger.
Golpata collectors settle after work in the middle of the river near Sunderban. Increased salinity from shrimp cultivation has forced traditional fishermen to abandon their families and seek a long term livelihood in Sunderban. Sunderban, Satkhira. 2009
For the Prix Pictet Commission Munem Wasif travelled many miles through Satkhira and deep into the forests of Sunderban. There he met the people, made their journeys and listened to their stories. Shown at the Mall Galleries for the first time, the resulting images are a searing yet sensitive call to action.
See all Images from the Commission
Listen to Munem Wasif interview with Mark Coles on The Strand,
BBC World Service’s daily arts programme. 17/03/09
The photo series “Requiem For Freedom” taken by Masud Alam Liton wins the bronze prize in Daily Life Stories in the 5th China International Press Photo (CHIPP) Contest held in Shanghai, China, from March 20 to 25, 2009.
Welcome to Heaven. A grils greetings to a new client at Brothel.
on doulodia brothel there are so many girl living as a sex worker, some of them under eighteen and totally forbidden to show their identity to outside of brothel.
A large numbers of sex workers have children of their own or ‘adopt’ other children, by way of confirming a relationship with a regular client.
Marriage in the brothel does not necessarily imply setting up house with a man; rather, it is often a way of confirming a relationship with a regular client.
Religious occasions from different religions are celebrated with equal enthusiasm. Such celebrations normally take place within the confines of the brothel, since its inhabitants are not welcome in public places of worship. Here a feast is being cooked, which will later be distributed at a saint’s mausoleum.
The photo series “Child Labour in Bangladesh” taken by G.M.B.Akash wins the silver prize in Daily Life Stories in the 5th China International Press Photo (CHIPP) Contest held in Shanghai, China, from March 20 to 25, 2009.
The photo series “Tuberculosis (TB) In Bangladesh” taken by Amdadul Huq wins the excellence prize in General News Stories in the 5th China International Press Photo (CHIPP) Contest held in Shanghai, China, from March 20 to 25, 2009.
Silver winner of 5th China Int’l Press Photo Contest in Nature & Environment Stories category — “Life Along the Coastline,” Saiful Huq Omi Khondoker.
Other Pathshala winners:
Munem Wasif on cover of Colors Magazine
Munir uz Zaman in BBC, Guardian, Time and Independent
Khaled Hasan wins award of excellence at Alexia Foundation Student Contest
Pathshala in Montage
Workshop by Philip Blenkinsop
The celebrated photographer Philip Blenkinsop of Noor Agency is currently conducting a workshop for students of Oslo University College (OUC) and Pathshala. This is the fourth time that Students of OUC led by their teacher Per Anders Rosenkvist are doing their course on international photojournalism at Pathshala. After a short intensive workshop, the students from the two countries team up to produce photo essays in various parts of Bangladesh. This year OUC students will also be participating in Chobi Mela workshops. Another Noor photographer Kadir van Lohuizen will be showing his work Diamond Matters at Chobi Mela V. Thanks to Gary Knight of the agency VII for linking us up with Philip, and to Claudia Hinterseer, the managing director of Noor, for facilitating Kadir’s show.
Saiful Huq Omi finalist in 2009 Aftermath Project Grant
Omi’s proposal was to produce a body of work on the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Selected images from Omi’s submitted portfolio (not from the Rohingya project) follow:
GMB Akash wins four prizes in The Visual Cultural Awards
1) Award of Excellence, in Photographic Essay category
2) Award of Excellence in Photographic Story category
3) Gold in Photographic Essay category
4) the top honour of Visual Maker of the Year
As a result of being awarded Visual Maker of the Year, he will have a solo exhibition at the Charleston Center for Photography in South Carolina, USA starting January 15th, 2009.
The myth of freedom in Western societies
by Lino Hellings
The artist Lino Hellings from Netherlands is going give a lecture on ‘The myth of freedom in Western societies.’ on Tuesday, 25th of November 2008 at Pathshala. The session will start at 6:00pm. Everybody related to Pathshala is invited to the event.
Thanking you all,
A Short Brief on Lino Hellings:
Lino Hellings has been an artist in public space for 33 years. Public space in Europe has gone through major changes in that timespan. Lino will show examples of her work which will illustrate the changing relation between people and their environments.
Lino has come to Bangladesh and more specified to DRIK to do research about her new plan. The start of a worldwide erroristnetwork. If you go to the website: www.errorist.net, you will find her experiences so far.
Final Presentation by Pathshala and Bjerkely Students
Dear Tutors and Students,
It is a pleasure to inform you that the Final Presentation of the participating students from Pathshala and Bjerkely will be held on the 22nd and 23rd of November 2008 from 2.00pm to 8.30pm at Alliance Francaise auditorium (1st floor), 26 Mirpur Road, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205. Our 2nd year and 3rd year students will not have any classes on next Saturday and Sunday because of this presentation. It is expected that all 2nd and 3rd year students will attend the presentation programme.
We request you to attend this presentation and share your ideas.
Pathshala-South Asian Institute of Photography
16 Panthapath, Sukrabad, Dhaka, Bangladesh.Show