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     Volume 8 Issue 97 | December 11, 2009 |

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“Do You See My World?”

Jessica Mudditt

Fifteen-year-old Jinnatun Nesa at the launch. Photo taken by Mohammad Ilias Mia, 15.

Unicef has given teenagers from rural Bangladesh the chance to express themselves through photography.

Thirty teenagers from the districts of Jamalpur, Chapainawabgonj and Barguna took part in a five-day photography course with trainers from Pathshala, Bangladesh's leading photography training institute.

Their photos are now on display in an exhibition called "Do You See My World?", which aims to create awareness of the issues facing adolescents in rural Bangladesh.

For many of the participants, it was the first time they had ever held a camera.

Fifteen-year-old Jinnatun Nesa said, "I was really nervous before the training began. But I learnt different ways of creating compositions and I began to enjoy it. I never imagined I would learn such things."

Trainer Tanzim Wahab, 25, an executive at Drik Picture Agency, said, "Although we taught them about the concepts of aperture and shutter speed, our main focus was on content. It was all about using photography to express their stories."

The participants were selected by the non-governmental organisations BRAC and CMES on the basis of those who regularly attend the youth centres in their home districts.

After the training was complete, they were each given a digital camera and spent the next week developing their new skills.

Their enthusiasm for photography was obvious when they returned to the training centres with a staggering 9,000 images.

The teenagers learnt about the processes of editing and caption writing, and a panel of curators in Dhaka then undertook the daunting task of selecting 60 images to be presented to the public.

Not only are these images striking and beautiful, but many also contain complex subject matter that reveals the particular challenges of life in rural Bangladesh.

At first glance, 14-year-old Humaira Yasmin Sheba's photograph simply appears to be a beautiful portrait of a young girl.

Photo taken by Mahfuz Rahman and Humaira Yasmin Sheba

The caption, however reads, "This is Rina Begum. Her parents took her out of school when she was 14 and married her off with a dowry… Her husband beats her sometimes... Sometimes he sends her back to her parents' home. Now she stays with her parents."

15-year-old Mohammad Ilias Mia's photograph shows the side profile of a young pregnant girl carrying water.

The caption states, "Tania is a victim of child marriage. Her parents arranged her marriage when she was only one-year-old, and she went to her husband's house at the age of 10. Now she is 13 and pregnant. It's really very hard for her because she has to do a lot of household chores. She does not want any child to get married at an early age."

The teenagers also highlighted the critical need for education, good health and sanitation as well as the social issues of child labour and domestic violence.

Suktara Khatun photographed a woman being beaten by her husband but she was later forced to delete the picture by the village tribunal.

Speaking during the exhibition's launch, Suktara said, "This man promised me that he wouldn't beat his wife again and asked me to delete the photo."

However she was so determined to portray violence against women that she asked a couple with a similar history to stage a photo for her.

Their love of nature and the innocence of youth was also depicted in the exhibition.

Mahfuzur Rahman took a picture of two young girls embracing on a charpoy and wrote the following caption, "Diya and Dipti are sisters. During their leisure time they share fairytales. Diya calls Dipti a queen, and Dipti calls her sister a princess."

The teenagers also learnt that photography can be a powerful means of bringing people together.

Samima Aktar Khaleda's mother and stepmother, who had never before sat side-by-side, agreed to do so for their daughter's photography project.

The exhibition was funded by the European Union and it was launched at the Sheraton Hotel in Dhaka on November 22.

During the launch, the principal of Pathshala, Shahidul Alam, asked, "Why isn't photography taught in schools? Unless it is taught in schools, only the wealthy will be the ones who to tell the stories - and it will be only one type of story being told."

Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, secretary of the Ministry of Information said that the government is organising many programmes for young people and he praised the work on display.

He said, "This exhibition is a welcome departure from the usual way of seeing the world.

"One of the photographs gives the flavour of a surrealist painting - and after only five days of training!"

"Do You See My World?" was exhibited at Dhaka's Drik Gallery from 22 - 27 November and it is currently touring the districts of Jamalpur, Barguna and Chapainawabgonj.

A mobile version of the exhibition is also touring the more remote villages on rickshaw vans and bullock carts.

The launch of "Do You See My World" can be watched on the internet at http://www.drik.tv/doyouseemyworld/


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