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Linking Young Minds Together
        Volume 7 | Issue 06| February 10, 2013 |


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Chobi Mela 2013

Samsul Alam Helal – Love Studio

Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
Photos: Samsul Alam Helal

"My world is a world of struggles,” confesses Samsul Alam Helal, one of the seven Bangladeshi artists who are exhibiting at Chobi Mela VII. “Photography was no different, it was full of struggles.” Lean with sunken eyes and a patch of beard on his chin, Helal can be easily taken as a third-year student from Charukala (Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka). He comes off as forlorn yet sincere, invisible yet powerful – and there's something about his presence that moves one to explore his thoughts. Having been brought up in a family where his brother owned a studio, photography came as a natural curiosity. On finishing his undergraduate studies in Management, Helal realised his calling was behind a lens in a box. He received a scholarship from Pathshala South Asian Media Academy and without informing his family, began to attend classes regularly. In the span of three years, he developed his unique voice, in his words – fictional photography.

Shamsul Alam Helal.

“I enjoy representing reality in an alternate space. What we see isn't necessarily the whole story, and when I take pictures, I try to delve into the fictional aspects of the story. A boy working at a roadside tong might be a movie buff, and if I photograph his story, I will try to explore his love for movies rather than his daily life,” explains Helal.

His work at Chobi Mela VII is a blissful becoming of his voice. Aptly titled 'Love Studio,' Helal takes his audience through a magical journey in the lives of the people of Jurain beyond the ordinary everyday. He tells Tipu's story, a young boy who is in love with actress Shahnaj, and was placed next to a dummy of her in the studio. Tipu wouldn't let go and in imperfect raw honesty, Helal photographs the passion and tension of a surreal, imaginary affair. In the studio in which he creates his stories, the characters are free to explore, become their true yet fictional selves. A truck driver turns into an action hero, twin sisters transform into Greek goddesses. Life is somewhere else.

“The trouble is always with balancing dreams with reality. I still struggle to make ends meet. I don't like the corporate assignments because they leave the artists with little time to play with the concepts in their heads. I still need to do them to have enough financial freedom to do what I want to do,” says Helal. “The stories in Love Studio are similar. They are about people who cannot live their dreams because of harsher realities. I tried to give them some breathing space to be themselves, and in the process, was able to give myself the liberating joy of being myself.”

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