<%-- Page Title--%> Exhibition <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 143 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

February 27, 2004

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On the Trail of Alok

When the integrity of the image is constantly being undermined by invasion of income-generating newsy or documentary photography, Aalok group of photographers are determined to stay with the tradition. The tradition that inspires making of images that are independent of market demands. In short, it is the creative stamp that they value most. Their shows are proof of that.

Aalok has been instrumental in promoting photography as a form of art. Although many photographers in Dhaka will cringe at the thought of photography as art, with the members of Aalok, it is an idea they feel dearly about. Yet it is not mere affectation that these already established photographers are striving for. Rather they nurture a belief in creating image that can speak on behalf of the creator, and reveal an aesthetic and objective intention independent of external influences.

Aalok group of photographers came into its shape in 1995. The group wanted to see the works of Bangladeshi photographers working in variety of photographic fields getting their dues in and outside the country. "To popularise photography and to pave a link among photographers of the world was and still is its aim," the man at the helm of things Dr. Rashid Un Nabi reveals. It is Nabi who set the wheel turning at the beginning, and he remains the chairman of the group till this day. "Nabi Bhai wanted us to get exposure in the outside world. It was him who was instrumental in cultivating the links abroad," says Zakir Hossain, one of the founding members of Aalok.

The group started off with 12 photographers who had already had a history of achievement. They banded to embolden their presence in the larger map of the country and beyond. Nabi came up with the magical solution to work together and combine their efforts aiming to produce a greater impact. Trained as a physician, Nabi picked up his camera back in 1985, and has been continuing in both as a photographer and physician. "He has been the man who got the highest number of awards for photography," adds Zakir, who himself fetched a number of awards at home and abroad. Aalok can boast of having the most awarded photographers working in Dhaka under their umbrella. The familiar names like Chandan , Kiron, and Abir figures in their list.

Presently, after all these years, Aalok can boast of having organised a number of international and national shows at home and also having participated in a lot of important international shows.

Aalok's membership now stands at 16. And all of them are known for their acumen; they are professionally renowned exponents of photography. Most are even involved with other groups. "There is no rule against being a member of other organisations or groups. If the members carry out the duty that they are suppose to render for the group, we have no problem," informs Zakir, who works for The Daily Star. In fact besides being a member of Aalok most of them are involved in regular jobs, many, like Nabi, are even pursuing other professions alongside photography.

The successful trail of activities that Aalok has left behind is the proof that the members are active, and is determined to pursue their aim. Aalok first sparked off with the Members' Print Exhibition to promote sales of their works back in 1996. The following year saw the group organise a huge international show of colour slides. One thousand slides were on display, among which there were invited works from 30 countries. The show travelled to Sylhet, Chittagong and even the much-neglected Naraynganj, which is almost a stone throw from Dhaka. "We always want our shows to travel to other cities. We want a break of the habit of Dhaka-centred practices," affirms Nabi.

In 1997 there was a show where renowned photography clubs were invited from India, Nepal and Pakistan. The Aalok group of photographers are particular about getting approval for their shows from their international brethren. In fact it is the only group in Bangladesh, which is a member of Federation of Asian photographic Art (FAPA).

After the huge show that focused the region, the next couple of years were spent exploring far-off terrains. The members had couple of shows, one in Romania and the other in Malaysia.

In 1999, for the first time , Aalok organised a solo exhibition of a reputed Japanese photographer. The computer art photography of Toshiko Ozawa was one show that demonstrated the strength of manipulated image. After this came the time to reassess what progress has been made in the home front. Aalok's annual photography show was a highlight of the year 2001.

The group never lost sight of the power of image and its ability to stretch the imagination. In 2002 they invited S R Mandal, an Indian photographer with a reputation for exploring surreal imagery. Mandal's montages that are results of darkroom wizardry, enticed a lot of young aspirants. A workshop was organised, where many were given the first hand knowledge of Mandal-style montage making.

After that, two of the members of Aalok headed towards Japan, where their works were on display in Kyoto. And later in Kyoto a show of all the members were held.

Back home Nabi regrets not being able to organise more shows, especially of the members. "Sponsorship is a factor, lack of which set us to organise the members' show every two years," bemoans Nabi. But their aim remains etched in their mind. "To popularise photograhy we involve people from different fields in our events," Nabi's remark reverberate the group's ethos.

The most intersting feature of the group is that it posseses an informal structure "to avoid the sorts of hostility that often leads to disastrous disbanding of any group", to quote Nabi.

With Nabi at the helm of things as the chairman of group for life, the members take terns in organising events. "This year Abir and Sujan consecutively have been made the exhibition chairman and secretary. As soon as the exhibition is over their positions become invalid," says Zakir.

Aalok's members' show also has an interesting feature. All the members get to play the jury. In a juried show, where portfolios of each participant containing a set of six photos on a consistent theme are submitted, no external jury members are invited. "We appraise our own work. When stuck, the last resort is to go for ballot," reveals Zakir.

The members' show kicked off on February 24, and it will last till the 29th of this month. Abir Abdullah was the award winner for 2001, and Shafiqul Alam Kiron for 2002.

Aalok is a group that endeavours to put together the best yields from Bangladesh. It only initiates new members when there is a consensus among the existing members. It is a platform that facilitates many activities centred on promotion of photography, yet in respect of membership it remains an exclusive turf that only gives space to the dedicated.

Mustafa Zaman





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