Once in a way a piece of work comes our way that stops you in your tracks that makes you question yourself. It opens up issues that have been conveniently buried in your conscience. Injustices abound in our region but fear of our own safety cripples us into non-action. Why rock the boat is a convenient way we justify our action.
A couple of days ago I read the feature on the New York Times blog on Shahidul Alam’s compelling Crossfire story of extra judicial killings in Bangladesh. I was privileged to read an embargoed piece earlier but words failed me and I didn’t know how to respond. Since then I’ve read it many times, poured over the photographs. I re -read it again today when it came via Dr. Alam’s newsletter introducing the exhibition that is opening in Dhaka at the Drik Gallery on the 22 March.
Dr. Alam asks “So how does a photographer respond? Exposing the facts, presenting one’s arguments well, making sure the information reaches a wide audience?” He says it “is the best any journalist can do. What is left, when the killings continue? The facts behind ‘crossfire’ are known. Despite the reluctance of many human rights activists and otherwise-active members of civil society to challenge this injustice, people themselves and now even the judiciary have protested. Now that this apparently ‘independent’ judiciary has also been muffled, what is left?”
The intention of this exhibit, Dr. Alam says “was therefore not to present documentary evidence. There was plenty of that around and it had failed. The show attempts to reach out at an emotional level. I aim to get under the skin. To walk those cold streets. To hear the cries, see terror in the eyes. To sit quietly with the family besides a cold corpse. But every photograph is based on in-depth research. On actual case studies. On verifiable facts. A fragment of the story has been used to suggest the whole. A quiet metaphor for the screaming truth.”
Those of us who have followed his work know Dr. Alam’s inimitable style. He has portrayed many a times difficult subjects such as HIV/AIDS, “the Other Women”, child labour with great sensitivity . A fearless activist, the love for his people come through in all of his work.
Here again, Dr. Alam has pulled together a visual story of our times combining different media to give us the “screaming truth.” The photographs show no faces. But you walk along the paddy fields, the hospital corridor, peep at the grave, the sarong left on the ground, look at the parked empty trishaw, and asks why are we so cruel to our own fellowmen. The haunting images, the strong words of Dr. Alam gets stuck in your mind to resurface unexpectedly canibalizing your peace of mind.
Go to : Shahidul Alam’s newsletter