ShahidulNews

(Moved to http://www.shahidulnews.com)

Where Elbows Do The Talking

It was a mixed week. Sandwiched in between the hartals and the ekushey barefoot walks and the launch disaster, were news items that led to very different emotions at Drik. Shoeb Faruquee, the photographer from Chittagong, won the 2nd prize in the Contemporary Issues, Singles, category of the world’s premier photojournalism contest World Press Photo. The photograph of the mental patient locked by the legs as in a medieval stock, is a haunting image that is sure to shake the viewer. However, the stark black and white image tells a story that is far from black and white. In a nation with limited resources, medical care for all is far from reality. Expensive western treatment is beyond the reach of most, and has often been shown to be flawed. Alternative forms of treatment is the choice of many. The fact that the boy photographed was said to have been healed, further complicates the reading of this image. Shoeb is one of many majority world photographers who have attempted to understand the complexities of their cultures, which rarely offer simplistic readings.

http://www.worldpressphoto.nl/index.php?option=com_photogallery&task=view&id=240&type=byname&Itemid=119&bandwidth=low

It was later in the week, that Azizur Rahim Peu, told me that the affable contributor to Drik, Mufty Munir, had died after a short illness at the Holy Family Hospital. I would contact Mufty when I was in trouble, needing to send pictures to Time, Newsweek or some other publication. We would work into the night at the AFP bureau, utilising the time difference, to ensure the pictures made it to the picture desk in the morning. Occasionally, while hanging out at the Press Club waiting for breaking news, we would dash off together. Mufty uncomfortably perched on the back of my bicycle and me puffing away trying to get to the scene in time.

Wire photography is about speed, and their photographers are known for being pushy, but this shy, quiet, self effacing photographer made his way to the top through the quality of his images. We had to push him to have his first show in 1995, which our photography coordinator Gilles Saussier and I curated. The show at the Alliance was a huge success, but Mufty was not impressed by the excitement the show had created. He simply wanted to get on with his work.

He did have problems with authority, or rather, authority had problems with him. Despite his shyness, he was a straight talking photographer, who didn’t hesitate to protest when things weren’t right. Not being the subservient minion the gatekeepers of our media are accustomed to, he often got into trouble. But the clarity of his protests played an important role in establishing photographers’ rights. In the abrasive world of press photography, where elbows do much of the talking, this gentle talented practitioner will be dearly missed.

Unknown to the rest of us, the brother of Rob, the gardener at Drik, died in the launch that sank in the storm at the weekend.

Shahidul Alam
21st February 2005

 

February 21, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where Elbows Do The Talking

[ShahidulNews] Where elbows do the talking
Shahidul Alam shahidul at drik.net
Tue Feb 22 01:41:21 BDT 2005

* Previous message: [ShahidulNews] The Human Spirit
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It was a mixed week. Sandwiched in between the hartals and the ekushey
barefoot walks and the launch disaster, were news items that led to very
different emotions at Drik. Shoeb Faruquee, the photographer from
Chittagong, won the 2nd prize in the Contemporary Issues, Singles,
category of the world’s premier photojournalism contest World Press
Photo. The photograph of the mental patient locked by the legs as in a
medieval stock, is a haunting image that is sure to shake the viewer.
However, the stark black and white image tells a story that is far from
black and white. In a nation with limited resources, medical care for
all is far from reality. Expensive western treatment is beyond the reach
of most, and has often been shown to be flawed. Alternative forms of
treatment is the choice of many. The fact that the boy photographed was
said to have been healed, further complicates the reading of this image.
Shoeb is one of many majority world photographers who have attempted to
understand the complexities of their cultures, which rarely offer
simplistic readings.

It was later in the week, that Azizur Rahim Peu, told me that the
affable contributor to Drik, Mufty Munir, had died after a short illness
at the Holy Family Hospital. I would contact Mufty when I was in
trouble, needing to send pictures to Time, Newsweek or some other
publication. We would work into the night at the AFP bureau, utilising
the time difference, to ensure the pictures made it to the picture desk
in the morning. Occasionally, while hanging out at the Press Club
waiting for breaking news, we would dash off together. Mufty
uncomfortably perched on the back of my bicycle and me puffing away
trying to get to the scene in time.

Wire photography is about speed, and their photographers are known for
being pushy, but this shy, quiet, self effacing photographer made his
way to the top through the quality of his images. We had to push him to
have his first show in 1995, which our photography coordinator Gilles
Saussier and I curated. The show at the Alliance was a huge success, but
Mufty was not impressed by the excitement the show had created. He
simply wanted to get on with his work.

He did have problems with authority, or rather, authority had problems
with him. Despite his shyness, he was a straight talking photographer,
who didn’t hesitate to protest when things weren’t right. Not being the
subservient minion the gatekeepers of our media are accustomed to, he
often got into trouble. But the clarity of his protests played an
important role in establishing photographers’ rights. In the abrasive
world of press photography, where elbows do much of the talking, this
gentle talented practitioner will be dearly missed.

Unknown to the rest of us, the brother of Rob, the gardener at Drik,
died in the launch that sank in the storm at the weekend.

February 21, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Human Spirit

http://www.zonezero.com/tsunami/shahidul/article.html

Shanika clung on to her dad Priantha, when she realised we were near to the sea. She had been in her aunt’s house in Hikkaduwa which had survived the waves, but had felt the fury of the sea. It had taken away her mother, her twin sister and her two other sisters and their home. The sea was to be feared. She did not want to go back there, photographs or no photographs. Priantha tried to explain that it would be safe, but Shanika was not convinced.

It was my digital camera which changed things. Most people in the sub-continent love being photographed. The joy of seeing her own image instantly brought a smile to Shanika’s face, and soon we were friends. She took photographs of her dad, her aunt and of me. Soon she was taking photographs of me by the sea, but telling me to be careful!

There are no direct flights from Dhaka to Colombo and I left on the 29th December, the first flight I could get. I didn’t have a very clear idea of what I would do once I got there. Dominic put me in touch with wildlife photographers Rukshan, Vajira and some other friends who had all gotten together to try and get relief goods to the worst affected areas. Margot and others had also helped. Dominic and I had bought some stuff, but it was pale in comparison to the truckloads ! that Rukshan and his friends had put together. Our convoy of twelve vehicles followed the two lorries though Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Timbolketiya, Uda Walawe, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Buttala, Moneragala and Siyambalanduwa until we came to the Lahugala military camp.

It was there that we realised that our planning was less than perfect. The initial outpouring of support had resulted in places being overstocked, while we heard of other places which had received nothing. A military anti landmine vehicle helped pull one of our lorries from the rainsoaked fields, and except for a small amount of rice, lentils and medicine which we left for families in most need, we put things back on the lorries to be returned to Colombo until we had a better idea of what to do. Soaking in the rain we piled back the tons of rice, milk powder, medicine, soap, clothes and all the other things we had emptied from the vehicle. While the others headed back, Rukshan, ! Vajira and I went on to the eastern coast of Pottuvil. There was an eerie emptiness. Only the scattered toys and other remnants gave away the fact that there had been a vibrant village. There were no bodies, no sounds, no wailing for the dead.

As a Bangladeshi, I was used to disasters, but the spontaneous collectives that would form when we were kids, singing songs, collecting old clothes from door to door, forming community groups who tried in their own way to stay by the needy, seem to have given way to the more ‘official’ methods of relief. Nowadays NGO efforts and organised disaster management seem to be our standard responses. Our own efforts seem to be restricted to the prime minister’s relief fund. In Sri Lanka, I could still sense the outpouring of sympathy that people felt for their fellow being.

I came across wonderful stories of human compassion and bravery. And while I lamented the lack of early warnings and the bureaucracy that prevented those who knew, from warning those who didn’t, I still came back convinced that it would take much more than tsunamis to tame the human spirit.

Shahidul Alam

Dhaka 7th February 2005

While on the subject of humanitarian aid, look up my work on Edhi in Pakistan at: http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/ 200406/humanitarian.to.a.nation.htm

February 7, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

   

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