On March 10, 2008, a series of demonstrations began in Lhasa to mark the 49th anniversary of an unsuccessful Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
The protests began peacefully but escalated into Tibet’s most violent unrest in nearly two decades. Police battled against angry Tibetan protestors, vehicles were overturned, shops set on fire and ethnic Chinese attacked and killed.
The Chinese authorities cracked down by using detentions and brutal force, which triggered yet more protests. With the help of modern technology, such as the Internet and mobile phones, the protests rapidly spread to other Tibetan areas in the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai.
With less than half a year to the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government was eager to keep everything under control — and out of sight from the rest of world.
Martial law was promptly imposed in all Tibetan areas with checkpoints, surveillance and a massive presence of police and PLA (People’s Liberation Army). All reporters and foreigners were denied access.
On assignment for Newsweek, I managed to get into the town of Tongren in the Gansu Province and its Tibetan monastery. These images are all from there.
Krazy Kumba Mela
Freedom takes on many forms. Imagine a desert with nothing but sand. Imagine 50,000 people who come from all over the world to celebrate their freedom, to be whoever they want to be for one week.
Here, there is no exchange of money, so you bring in everything that you will need. There is a “gift economy”, so you bring something that you want to share. It is an exercise in self-reliance – you take home all your waste at the end. It’s an exercise in collective survival. You have to be equipped for dust storms and heavy rains.
The rest is all fun. There is music 24-hours a day, amazing art installations, creative and thought-provoking performances, crazy costumes, streets set up like a real city, art cars that double for concerts, gorgeous sunsets and exquisite sunrises, and a coming together of new and old friends. The Burning Man festival is a modern kumba mela. At the heart of it all, it is about having the freedom to be yourself and respecting the freedom of others.
Play with Light
Mohammad Rashed Kibria Palash
When I didn’t know photography, I used to play with my torchlight and my table lamp. Then, light became a favourite play item of mine. The size of my study room was eight by twelve feet, in which I could easily spend my days playing by creating shimmering warm colours by reflecting light. Now, I am a photojournalism student. Even though it is difficult, I still enjoy creating my lighted world creatively.
This collection is of the local industry that creates moulds for army boots. This Bangladeshi product is completely handmade, and I am proud of its longevity compared to foreign goods.
I’ve always dreamt to weave my dreams with light and colours, and I believe I may have begun to do that.
Jute Mill Workers
In my childhood, I used to memorise an essay for my exams, titled Jute: Golden Fibre of Bangladesh. I came to know about the biggest pride of our nation. However, this pride has been the cause of our misfortune. After following the prescription of the World Bank and other donors, only 14 of our 77 jute mills survived. An industry which once employed 2.5 million now only offers work to 25,000. The export rate has dropped from 90% to 10%. On the other hand, in India, the private jute industry there is booming day by day.
Workers pass their days with tremendous hardship, as the cash-strapped public-sector mills here are unable to pay them for months at a time. A good number of the workers has already had to send their families back home as there is no way to provide for them here. Khalil, working at Crescent Jute Mill, told me how he has six children to feed, and is desperate for the wages he needs to keep the family running. He was in jail as a result of a raid after a demonstration by workers.
Throughout the Khulna-Jessore belt, people no longer wake up to the sound of the whistle from the mill.
Even Bangladesh’s interim government closed down four mills, putting 14,000 workers out of work without giving them their due salaries. To achieve our freedom in 1971, we had to shed copious amounts of blood. Today, the question is how much more will we have to shed to achieve real freedom from the shackles of countless acts of selfishness? We have to achieve our financial independence from donor agencies and multinational corporations, or our industries will keep shutting down, farmers will keep on losing their right to a proper price, and labourers will be beaten to death for fighting for their rights.
Women, more than a veil
For ten years, I have been working, as a photojournalist, on visual investigations on the situation of women in different Muslim countries: Morocco, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Niger.
Along the years, I witnessed several changes in those societies, avant-gardist or conservative, and how these women fought, their laughter, their hopes, and their despairs. The Westerner’s vision often reduces their life to the veil, arranged weddings, violence, and terrorism. The urge of the news doesn’t give us time to understand the reality of Muslim societies. Because of prejudices and common pictures of Islamic countries, we make all women tarred with the same mediatic brush. Beyond countries’ borders, I hope my pictures will invite you to discover those women within Islam, in their diversity and their likeness.
Tabula Rasa – A Sweep of the Past
The dismantling of traditional Chinese neighbourhoods and the new urban settings erected in their place go together with the reconfiguration of the socialist government in a market economy. It is through this link, acting as a metaphor of the transformation of a power and the concrete realisation of a new framework of life, that I approach the urbanisation of China, focusing on a humane vision of this country that ignores the will of its population.
My main work concerns the urban changes in China and its implications for humans. I consider urbanisation as the most unreported change in China, one that the country had not experienced before. In 20 years of modernisation, China, a traditionally rural empire, has become an urban country for the first time in its history. By focusing on the daily life in the traditional neighbourhoods, he tries to show how impossible it is to influence decisions made because of modernisation and in the name of wealth for the community.
The Chinese government pretends to improve the living conditions of its people, but through this shows it is capable of deciding and building a new living environment without consulting with the people first. I interviewed some people resistant to these changes even though they were already living in the new suburbs, people who were struggling simply for the right to talk and state their opinions.
The direct links between the investors in the construction industry, the development of the country and the people with political power makes it impossible to stop the surging “growth” of the country. In a way, urbanisation is not simply the consequence of the introduction of liberalism in China, but also a way to view the “new clothes” being worn by the government.
Moments of transitions are awaited eagerly by the lens of photographers, whether they be temporal, spatial, emotional and any other kind. It is this moment of transition – that of a young girl’s from being a prostitute to a respectable housewife – which I shot at the threshold of her brothel. I witnessed the marriage of Ambika with Pervez Khan, as she became Zarina Khan.
In our attempt to find a good treatment centre for the HIV-positive couple after their marriage, we found out that there were only a few existing centres for free or reasonable medication for AIDS and none that could promise to provide free drug administration for the required period of time.
Crores of rupees had been pumped into AIDS awareness campaigns; but unfortunately when the victims woke up to the necessity of treatment, there were no facilities available. Donors continue to give money for awareness campaigns, but there is no agency pointing out that donations are now needed for the next essential step – treatment.
I have recorded a gamut of victorious, happy moments that have, in a way, provided for the climax of Zarina’s life story. It would be an anti-climax to watch her die in pain and misery. I want this story to conclude not in death, but in change – both in her life and in our socio-economic approach to AIDS. I plan for a sequel in which I document the rectifying of this problem and the benefits gained thereof by Zarina. Now, it is I who am at a threshold.
I foresee these photographs as kick-starting a movement through a single patient’s story by highlighting the lack of infrastructure for AIDS treatment programmes, and via a travelling exhibition, communicating the problem to other developing nations and appealing to international donor agencies working in AIDS projects.
The movement to bring in free AIDS treatment can only gain momentum when the victims’ lives are valued. I wish to lead people into valuing Zarina’s beautiful life. People light a spark through words, dance, poetry, music, theatre, cinema and more. I seek to do it through two colours – black and white. A threshold bridges the two.