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     Volume 8 Issue 82 | August 14, 2009 |

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The Green Tree Has Borne Grand Fruits

Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
'Perspectives' the event that has roused much curiosity and accolade.

Ansel Adams once sipped a cup of steaming coffee, cleared his throat and told the world, “You don't take a photograph, you make it.” Indeed, when one walks through the photographic projects of the 8th batch of graduating students from South Asian Media Academy and Institute of Photography, Bangladesh otherwise known as Pathshala one can truly contemplate what Adams meant. 'Perspectives' the event that has roused much curiosity and accolade is in quintessence a showcase of the making of a photographer and a breathing proof to Pathshala's unique array of successes.

The photography exhibition and book, both titled 'Perspectives' is a product of Pathshala's year long documentary photography course project done by 16 graduating students in their third year. Held at Drik Gallery between August 7 and 12, it presented the works of Chandan Robert Rebeiro, Debasish Shom, K M Asad, Khaled Hasan, M. Mazhar Hussain, Nurun Nahar Nargish, Prito Reza, Qamruzzaman, Saikat Mojumder, Saikat Bhadra, Shah Sazzad, Shehab Uddin, Shumon Ahmed, Tanvir Murad Topu, Tanvir-ul-Hossain and Tanzim Ibne Wahab. The images were edited by the course teacher, Abir Abdullah. The exhibition intended to portray life on a bigger canvas with interpretations of faith, dreams, stigma, class diversity, social injustice and cultural changes from diverse points of views.

Nobel Laureate Professor Mohammad Yunus inaugurated the show by taking a picture with a camera, and marked the Graduation Day 2009 of Pathshala. As chief guest, Professor Yunus with guest-of-honour, photographer Bijon Sarkar and principal of Pathshala, Dr. Shahidul Alam also unveiled the photography book, 'Perspectives'. The publication is a compilation of compassionate and compelling imageries pulsating with the masteries of Sabyasachi Hazra's unblemished illustrations. Both the exhibition and book stand tall as brilliant successes that have veritably given photography a new perspective.

Tanvir Murad Topu's project, titled 'City Wheeler' tells the story of rickshaw pullers from across Bangladesh.

Taking a closer look at the exhibition itself and answering the doubt of what is it about framed photographs that makes this particular exposition so unique; 'Perspecitves' on a personal note is an unparalleled blend of imagination and realism. It brings forth the stories of people and places beyond the limitations of wooden frames, and gives the viewer a more three-dimensional outlook into their lives. To illustrate a few, Tanvir Murad Topu's project, titled 'City Wheeler' tells the story of rickshaw pullers from across Bangladesh who have each come to Dhaka to earn their families money to survive. Taking a closer look at the pullers' diverse backgrounds, the project intends to present the important moments of their lives. However, what makes Topu's work such a galvanizer is the presentation of the photographs. Bring placed on a brand new rickshaw that has been built and painted from scratch, the photographs received a more real, tactile essence; and thus giving the rickshaw puller's story a more careful insight. Similarly, Saikat Majumder's 'Life: Born in a Slum' is a startling collage of imageries taken during birth at a slum under harsh conditions of poverty, destitution and poor medical conditions. On the contrary, Shah Sazzad's project 'Emon Jodi Hoto' puts together art and photography to create the recreate the fantasies of children. In Sazzad's words, he was inspired by the Khude Shilpi'r Khoje Art Competition where he saw children drawing their imaginations in the form of fairies, flying unicorns and other fictitious elements. He decided to put real characters in the backdrop of these paintings to give photography a refreshing new perspective. Sazzad's work was presented in a bioscope that brought forth the elements of illusion, entertainment and tradition and gives his project a feeling like no other.

But moving back, and coming to the making of these presentations, one cannot help but wonder what stirred photographers to be this creative and break away from the traditional modes of showcasing their work.

“Pathshala has always provided us a platform for free spirited thinking. Where most institutions follow a very stringent curriculum, Pathshala allows its students to design their own courses, and often these are implemented in accordance to feasibility. I think that's what makes this place so special and different from the rest,” explained the proud graduate Tanvir Murad Topu. “At the end of our third year, each student is supposed to submit a final project, and in our batch, we decided to do something different. We submitted our project proposals and a willing committee discussed its prospects and feasibility with us. We each had ingenious ideas to showcase our work, and finally, the best and most feasible projects reached the gallery. It must be mentioned here that each final presentation depended largely on the student's will and whether he or she was ready to undertake the time and dedication required to see his or her work to the final day.”

Pathshala has created a place for people who love photographs.

“We felt our photographs needed to break out of the frames, and should provide a more three-dimensional, real insight into the stories they conveyed. It would be interesting and entertaining at the same time,” added Shah Sazzad. “My particular project deals with the confrontation of art and photography. I've used very local characters and blended them with the fantasies of children to create something fun and beautiful. When presented in a bioscope, this very aspect of imagination and entertainment is aptly expressed and framed pieces would probably not have been this effective.”

Photography is still a very new concept in Bangladesh. Pathshala, being one of the few local institutions offering dedicated courses in photography and its various aspects has successfully to an extent promoted the practice in this region. However, often people are under the impression that creative processes as such require no training, and if institutionalised, may lose its imaginative niche.

“I disagree with such opinions,” said Sazzad. “Creative processes often require the greatest discipline. Ideas cannot be taught, but the technicalities need to be learnt. Things like framing, lighting, composition, mood and timing are matters that need to be handled carefully, and can impact the results.”

The fact remains there are still only a handful who opt for such an 'adventurous' and 'risky' lifestyle. Particularly, in case of female photographers, Bangladesh is yet a long way off. Although with changing attitudes, more women are getting interested in the field, few actually manage to get formal training in the subject. Of the 16 photographers who participated at the exhibition, Nurun Nahar Nargish being the only female of the lot had much to share on the matter.

“I come from a very simple family in Mymensingh. My father, on hearing I wanted to get admitted to Pathshala was very unwilling to let me go. I faced many obstacles, and even my wedding was arranged so I wouldn't get involved in such an unconventional profession,” Nargish explained. “I received a lot of support from Pathshala, my friends and other well-wishers who supported my decisions and even bore my living expenses. Pathshala gave me scholarship, and I was able to pursue my field of interest. It is often difficult for a girl to move as freely as a boy does, and I being the only girl in my class was frequently at a disadvantage. Yet, with God's blessings, I have crossed all the hurdles, and now my family is proud of what I do.”

Indeed, Pathshala has created a place for people who love photographs. The green banyan tree, iconic of wisdom and knowledge used as Pathshala's logo has provided direction and shade to aspiring photographers of our time, and 'Perspectives' is an animated evidence of it. As Topu beautifully sums it, “If you love photos, you must come to Pathshala.”

Photos: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya


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