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    Volume 8 Issue 59 | February 27, 2009 |

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A Burgeoning City and its Vibrant People

Fayza Haq

Bruno Valentin and Julian Pannetier, two Geography experts from France, are holding an exhibition of their photographs presenting their investigation into the city. This is being held at the gallery of Alliance Francaise.

"We've been coming here three times within a span of a year, to look at the place and understand its people. We're here to capture the activities of the people, which are traditional and contemporary. We were not overwhelmed by the heat or dirt, as it was a part of the lifestyle of the place, and we gradually got used to the surroundings. This was the first time that we're coming to a developing country, but we had some idea as what to expect. We find the place different, exotic and interesting," says Bruno.

They chose to stay with a family in Keraniganj rather than in well-to-do places in Dhaka. They felt that in this way they could feel the pulse of the people. They plan to ultimately write a book about Dhaka and so it is important for them to know the heart of the place and know the ways of the toiling workers. "Bangladesh is a forgotten and ignored country in the west. The people know only of its floods and famines and I felt that this adverse image should be changed and the beauty of the place should be brought out. The positive sides of the country has yet to be exposed," says Bruno.

The duo has taken 3,500 photographs of Bangladesh in 105 days. Bruno picked up Bangla phrases so that he was be able to communicate. When they first came, Bruno and Julian went to se the Buriganga on a boat. There they made friends, as they investigated the place, and stayed on with the people they met, who welcomed them in their homes to share their simple lives. They went to Gaptali, Hazaribag, Karaniganj, Motijeheel, Gulshan etc. and took pictures at will.

In the beginning they did not move with their cameras. First they got to know the people and then they took the pictures, so that the onlookers did not get flustered or disturbed with their clicking of their cameras. It was only occasionally that they had to take permission when focusing from high-rise buildings.

One of the pictures has a boat with three men. Wearing crusty chains around their waists, the men are in search of what lies at the bottom of the River Buriganga, and get paid about Tk 600 for their daily wages. Around the Buriganga are depicted the market places, where the coming and going of boats, led to people loading and offloading of goods. At this biggest market of the city, shopkeepers come for provisions. The arrival of hundreds of long boats is also captured in the photographs.

Buriganga's shipyard has also been the subject of their photography. The bridges spanning the banks divert your attention. Some of the items are gradually transferred to Narayanganj yard. "In this big metropolis it is the people who make the place come alive," says Bruno. The brick kiln, at the downstream of Dhaka, with its workers, is also breath taking. Similarly absorbing is also the recycling of plastic, essentially found in rubbish tips. The textile industry, some working for French brands was also fascinating. The textile sector injects $11 billion into the national economy each year and form 80% of the exports. The energy and enthusiasm of the garment workers were also captured in details.

Bruno, who comes from Nancy, hopes to visit other developing countries in Asia, like Nepal, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Togo, in the near future. These same exhibitions, with additions, will be presented in France too.



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