Chobi Mela and Bangladeshi photographers excel at National Geographic
You may be forgiven for thinking that the results of the National Geographic All Roads project had been fixed by me. Two out of the four main awardees and two out of the five honourable mentions were from my list! Those of you who were here for Chobi Mela III will recognise the work of three of the photographers listed here. Shehzad was not involved in the festival, but has been a regular contributor to Drik for many years. Neo spent a year at Pathshala as a Fredskorpset participant. I am enclosing my introductions to the photographers that I had submitted to the National Geographic. The festival opens at the Egyptian Theater in LA on the 21st September 2005. Or else you could come to the 2nd part of the festival at the National Geographic headquarters at Washington D.C. from the 29th September to the 1 st October. There is a morning seminar on the 30th. You will get to meet All Roads Advisory Board members, photo program awardees, magazine editors, filmmakers, and artists from around the world. The blurb from Geographic: Photographer Panel Discussion *"Camera and Culture: The myth of objective documentation"* Is documentary photography inherently objectifying? Can comprehensive documentation be done through non-native eyes? Is there an unspoken universal morality in documentary work? Please join us for a candid and interactive panel discussion exploring these issues and more at both festival venues. Panelists will include *All** Roads Photographers Program 2005 Awardees*, world-renowned photographer * Reza*, and award-winning International Editor & Curator *Shahidul Alam*; the discussion will be moderated by National Geographic Magazine, Senior Editor *John Echave*. Please see below for times at each location: *L.A.**:* Saturday September 24, 2-3:15 pm, Egyptian Theater or *D.C.:* Saturday Oct.1, 2-3:15 pm Grosvenor Auditorium And now the photographers: Neo Ntsoma: Neo Ntsoma is a complex person. High strung, energetic, intense, passionate, laughing, crying, running, leaping, she is in the middle of everything and everywhere. A spring ready to uncoil. She is also deceptively perceptive. Having faced racism, in every guise, she has toughened herself to face life's challenges. But it is her black identity that has emerged as the soul within her work. She rejoices in her colour and rejoices in colour. Her search for identity within the black South African youth, is no nostalgic trip down memory lane, but rather a buoyant leap at the crest of the wave of youth which captures the energy, the dynamism, the joy of a youth determined to find its own expression. It is the raw energy of her work that attracts me. Sudharak Olwe: Olwe's photographs have a Dickensian construction that reflect the complexities of the lives he portrays. Fine detail. Frames crammed with information. Seemingly superfluous data spilling over the rim of the frame. Photographs charged with an energy that perhaps talk of the people he portrays. People who eke out everything they can from a life that has had the nutrients pulled out a long time ago. With visual elements jostling for space, Olwe's multilayered images reflect the layered hierarchy of a class and caste system that have permanently relegated those in the bottom of the rung. A rung is perhaps a deceptive metaphor, as a ladder suggests the ability to climb. For Olwe's characters, there is no exit. No happy ending. Tomorrow is no different from today. So the characters themselves, squeeze every inch out of life. Ironically, in dealing with a life with very limited options, they live life to the full. Much as the frames of Olwe's construction. Abir Abdullah: There are few photographers I have come across who have maintained as high a level of integrity as Abir Abdullah. I have observed him as a student, as a fellow photographer, as a colleague, a fellow tutor and a friend. At all stages, he has been exemplary in the way he has upheld the values that photojournalists live by. A fine photographer, Abir is also a sensitive individual whose work reflects the attachment he has for his subjects. Though he is currently employed as a wire photographer, his approach has never been superficial, and he has relied on his ability to build relationships with his subjects. It is this sensitivity, and the respect that he has for people that I feel comes through in Abir's work, and is eventually the underlying strength of his photography. Shehzad Noorani: Noorani's life has shaped much of what he photographs. A child worker who got caught raiding a neighbour's kitchen for food, is an unlikely candidate for a successful career in photography. But statistics are very poor at predicting life as it unfolds. A need to feed the family led to Shehzad having to ensure that the money kept flowing in. This he did with consummate ease by being one of those rare photographers who always deliver on time, to specification and to highly exacting standards. This thorough professional however, is also a skilled artist, who has combined his human skills with a wonderful eye that finds things other eyes may have missed. It is the subaltern that Shehzad has photographed, but not through pitiful eyes, or some romantic notion of charity, but through a genuine understanding of what being poor is. His tenacity, his ability to push himself and his unusual duality between the disciplined professional and the gifted artist, makes Shehzad special. Dear Shahidul: We would like to thank you for taking the time to send in your nominations for the 2005 class of the *All** Roads Photographers Program*. On Monday July 18th four Awardees, and five Honorable Mentions were selected from a very talented and diverse pool of nominees. As a matter of fact, having five Honorable mentions is a testimony to the high quality of the photoessays. The final awardees are: *Marcela Taboado*: Women of Clay (Mexico); *Sudharak Olwe*: In search of Dignity and justice: the untold story of Mumbai's conservancy workers* *(India); *Neo Ntsoma* South African Youth ID – Kwaito Culture (South Africa); and *Andre Cypriano*: Rocinha, An Orphan Town ( Brazil). And the honorable mentions are: *Shehzad Noorani:* The Children of Black Dust – That child who wants to live (Bangladesh), *Abir Abdullah*: Old Dhaka (We were born here and will die here…) (Bangladesh) , *Walter Mesquita:*Viva Favela Project (BrazilMahalla,) *Rena Effendi:* Faces of Change (Azerbaijan) , * Gia Chkhatarashvili:* Ushguli, A Village at a Crossroad (Rep. of Georgia) We were most pleased with the nominations and encourage you to please start thinking of qualified photographers for next year! Warm Regards, Chris Rainier and Eduardo Abreu All Roads Photographers Program
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