Soulscapes

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The soul in question

Amirul Rajiv

Curator & Editor Soulscapes

Today, we are threatened by a drive towards a rigid social conformity and the struggle between differing conceptions of public morality and individual freedom. In this battleground the soul plays the role of a pawn. `Soulscapes’ desperately seeks to explore these issues, beginning with an examination of society – the soul created and recreated – and then moving through photographs and texts that consider the soul abused, objectified, discovered, aroused, desired, censored, mythologized, manipulated and celebrated. The images are corporeal, about the strengths, and vulnerabilities, of this most tangible manifestation of personal experience, ourselves, whether the soul in question is a child, a victim of suicide, a burning body or someone at the point of prostitution. Curating and editing might really be an instance of self-censorship, one of the most subtle and insidious assaults on literature and the arts. We hope that our audience will take this exhibition of `Soulscapes’ to heart and mind at a moment when our souls are increasingly questioned and menaced.

Survivors. © GMB Akash

Soulscapes

GMB Akash

With every picture you take, you enter a space that is unknown to you as a photographer. In the beginning it feels like forbidden territory, a place you are not supposed to enter surrounded by borders of privacy you are not supposed to cross. You, the photographer, are there at a factory, a old home or a brothel with your simple black bag hanging from your shoulder, eying everything around you as you are eyed by the people there. The first days following these intrusions I never take pictures because they would not be good. I wouldn’t know the people I met, wouldn’t understand the place I had just entered – my photography would be stale and meaningless.

But there is always that moment when it feels completely natural to open that bag. And also there is no way of telling why it comes. Suddenly, I have a friendly conversation, or the afternoon light makes everybody around me relaxed and mellow, or someone looks at me in a trusting yet familiar way.

Then I take out my camera, and for me and everybody around me it is the most natural thing to do. There is consent. People don’t accuse me, or reject me or pose in unnatural ways. They are just there, doing what they normally do. Then I click away, and it feels like a conversation, a conversation between me and the people, between me and the location, between me and the light, between me and the souls that make this place alive. In such moments a landscape becomes a soulscape.

After such moments, life where I am working becomes trivial again, and the next day everybody asks for their photographs, and there is no difference if the people are girls from a brothel, children who work in a factory or farmers from the countryside.

But these little exchanges bring us closer to each other, and the ties between us, which started with small talk and conversation and continued with the first pictures I took, will become deeper and more meaningful, and so will the pictures I take.

And the closer I get to them and the deeper our friendship becomes, the simpler my photography gets. I am no longer looking for special angles or artistic points of views; I just open myself to these people, take a good look, frame and wait for the right moment. When I walk home, I have all the moments that I missed in my head, and they will become my source of inspiration in the days to come.

I see the beauty of people and the human soul in the pictures I take. And though the circumstances of some of the people I portray may be grim, back-breaking, depraved, the people themselves are always remarkable characters and souls. And it is my duty as a photographer and artist to point with my pictures at every aspect of existence in the society and world I live in, to show what can be shown, to go deep into every milieu and also into every aspect of poverty, deprivation and hardship that I encounter – because the only sin for a photographer is to turn his head and look away.

Inaugural ceremony: Tuesday, 6 pm, 1 June 2010

Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts

Bengal Shilpalaya

House 275/F, Road 16 (new)

Sheikh Kamal Sarani

Dhanmandi, Dhaka 1209

The exhibition will remain open until 10 June 2010, daily from 12 – 8 pm

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