Bangladesh Through the Eyes of Main Uddin
The Photographer Speaks:
It Still Rains…
Those were days with no electricity. As the sun sets, the village goes to sleep. The sun sets on the horizon, and we light the kerosene lanterns. It was time to listen to the stories about the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
Almost two decades have passed since I took up the camera as my lifetime companion. I planned to go back. Go back to my village, where I was born and my father's father was born. Was it raining the day I started photographing? I do not remember. Seventeen years have passed since I clicked the shutter for the first time.
But one thing I remember very clearly I had never thought I would lose what I had before my own eyes. It was a journey I had started for my love, for my mother and for my village people.
Manik was a childhood friend. During the Eid, we had our best time together- a boy from the Muslim community and another boy from the Hindu community of our village. During the days of Puja, we had the most fun of our lives going from one mondop to another and eating the prashad. It was a festival where people from all religions attended.
But times have changed; the culture of politics has changed and even the dynamics of personal relationships within the common villagers has changed. After many years, when I started documenting the lives of those common people, it seemed that religion was a much bigger cultural issue than just a personal matter.
Times have changed and so has the custom of taking up one's father's occupation. Gogen Kaku was a goldsmith. His son now works for an NGO. He would not take up his father's profession. Husen Mia was a farmer. His son is now a rickshaw puller. Sharif Mia was a brickfield worker, and his son is a student of class eight who dreams of becoming a doctor.
Days have changed, and a good number of girls now go to schools and colleges. Now, there is the thana road which takes you to the school. We used to play football, but they play cricket now. The Kushti Khela does not happen any more, now the kids watch wrestling on television. In our time, women were found in the kitchen cooking for children. Now, they come out to the fields to work for the family or to drag cattle out onto the fields to graze.
It still rains after seventeen years, but the sound of the raindrops has changed. It makes no sound when it falls on concrete.
Md. Main Uddin was born in Kishoreganj on March 6, 1961. He studied Sociology at Chittagong University. He is currently the Group Leader of Drik's Photography and Picture Library Department, and also a lecturer at Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography.
While working at Helen Keller International, Main realized how hard it was to get things done within the trappings of bureaucracy. His job at the time involved the observation of impaired patients over a three month period. After a particular case where he wanted to act immediately but was helpless in the face of all the rules, he decided to do things differently. He took up his camera and decided to portray Bangladesh as he saw it. At least he didn't feel restricted that way.
Main Uddin has won numerous national and international awards for his photographic work. Some of them include the Nikon International Photo Contest, Humanity Photo Award China, ACCU Photo Contest Japan, WHO Photo Contest Switzerland, national and international photo contests held by the Bangladesh Photography Society, and the HSBC World Environment Day Photo Competition.
His first solo exhibition was at the National Photo Gallery Bangladesh. His work was also exhibited at Chobi Mela I - The International Festival of Photography, Hotel Sheraton Bangladesh and Musee de La Homme in Paris.
Main's photographs are used by many national and international clients for their publications. The list includes New Internationalist magazine, Himal, Save the Children, Helen Keller International, The British Council, NORAD, UNICEF, GTZ and SDC.
The story-teller of today reminds us of the story-tellers of yore. Far from the concrete jungle lies the wet clay his heart longs for. The warm cocoon of his grandmother's stories, childhood memories, the familiar paths of his village and song birds playing the music of his images. It is easy for such a trip to become a nostalgic sentimental journey, but this is a well-trodden road and he knows it well. The visual reminders along the way, like the mileposts of a time machine, are the village pastimes that few still value, the childhood games that he remembers playing, the late night jatras they waited up for.
He paints with love and with light. Through the parched earth he walks alongside the winter's last fishing trip to the wetland swamp before it morphs into lush arable land. We meander through the paddy field, with the green changing to gold in the magical late afternoon light. We perch up on a dwindling branch that only the familiar would dare to climb, and look down upon the offering that once was shared. He reminds us of seasons we've forgotten, of the changing of the months, of the blossoms and the breeze through which nature speaks. He reminds us of a language we've forgotten, using a language that we've failed to value.
For the city-born, East, West, North South no longer has meaning. The year starts in January and ends in December. Air-conditioned seasons recognize neither the monsoon rain, nor the morning mist. But the photographer still waits for the long shadows of winter, or the soft light of an overcast sky. Dancing across the green fields the summer breeze still peeps through the narrow alleyways and city skylines. As he listens to the silence of the city rain, his images still play the flute of the shepherd.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007