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     Volume 8 Issue 83 | August 21, 2009 |

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Fayza Haq

Intense and a stickler for the most minute details, GMB Akash, with 35 international awards to his credit, proves to the world again that he has much to offer for the enquiring mind thirsting for something new. Akash's work has been used in over 50 major international publications, which include Times, Sunday Times, Newsweek, Geo, Stern, Der Speigel , The Guardian, Amnesty Journal, PDN, Die Zeit, Days Japan and Sunday Telegraph of London. His mastery in the play of light and shade is seen at his second solo show in Bangladesh.

He is the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004 he received the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris, again being the first Bangladeshi to receive this honour. In 2005 he was awarded Best of Show at the Center for Fine Art Photography's International Award in Colorado , USA. In 2006, he was awarded World Press Photo award and released his first book "First Light."

His photography exhibition, "Survivors" currently being shown at Alliance Francaise, presents faces of courage and hope, in his characteristic breathtaking, vibrant display of colour. These valiant subjects include teenaged metal workers of Bangladesh, deprived tea-pickers of Sri Lanka who earn a minimum wage, struggling dockworkers of Pakistan, and people precariously perched on train-tops on their way home. It is the constant struggle in the face of adversity that captures Akash's imagination and lens.

Akash focuses not only on the developing world but also people from Germany, where a homeless girl is seen kissing the face of a dog, despite her misery. Begging in the freezing cold, the girl goes on with the business of living. We sense the unhappiness and agony. For this girl there is no home or shelter, food or warmth.

Asked what gave him the most sense of satisfaction, Akash says,"Seeing the pictures we learn the numerous problems that the oppressed and deprived face in their journey through life. Their basic needs are not fulfilled as they have no permanent shelter over their heads. Often young aspirants don't have enough money and can't go to school. Yet they don't whine or cringe. They smile through their adversity. They are strong and dignified. They fight on through all obstacles."

Akash says that the place that he treasures and enjoys most is Bangladesh, his home, where he has a place of his own. "They live on the edge of society and yet they've always welcomed me with open arms" he says. He worked for three years in "Patshala", Dhaka and went on to win a place in the master class in Amsterdam. He then got a grant for $30,000 for his work on child labour, along with another photographer. His ongoing project for four years is to bring out a book on child labour in Bangladesh.

These photographs focus on workers at rickshaw- spare-parts making-factories, stone-breakers in Jafflong; bakeries, young sex-workers etc. The "Pink Sari" story, an assigned project, was based on an incident that took place in Banda, UP, where women were raped, with the culprit going scot free. "Each subject took me months to complete, "says Akash. "I don't take individual pictures, but rather a series of them (photo features). This exhibition is a selection from the series.

All the pictures are dark but vibrant and pulsating with life, using contrasting, pulsating colours, like vermilion, turquoise and gold yellow running through the black. The play of colours is exciting and full of joie de vivre. The faces of the subjects are pleasant and full of optimism. Even if the photo consists of brown, grey and black hues yet there is no depressing effect. Akash says,"I work in colour as I believe that it is more challenging, and breathes more life into the subject. Colour presents the subject in more depth, I believe. The hues heighten the drama. I believe in making my work as spontaneous as possible. "

Akash says that he has been working for the Geo magazine for some time now." I was focusing on Karmapa, the successor of Dalai Lama. This was in Dharmashala, in India."

His mentor, he says is Ruth Eichorn, who is the Photo Director for the German Geo magazine. Without her inspiration, he says, he couldn't have come so far. Other people who have inspired him include Dr Shahidul Alam Drik's founder and the Indian photograph guru Ragu Rai and the Iranian icon Abbas. Another such person for him is Reza Deghati. They both deal with the socio problem of hypocrisy in religion.

In 2007 he again became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the 30 Emerging Photographers (PDN 30) by Photo District News Magazine, USA.

He got the 7th Vevy International photography Grant from Switzerland in 2009.


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