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     Volume 7 Issue 2 | January 11, 2008 |

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Shot on the Streets of the World

Hana Shams Ahmed

Abeer Hoque

A traditional wedding in Kolkata, a chillingly peaceful scene of a Jewish cemetery, a woman's hand getting ready to burst a balloon and a monk climbing a ladder with the sky as a backdrop random moments, shot at different parts of the world forever captured by a gypsy photographer's curious lens.

These photographs and a few dozen others are part of an exhibition, going on at Alliance Francaise, of Abeer Hoque a Bangladeshi expatriate writer and photographer. The exhibition is taking place in two parts. The first week (Jan. 3-9, 2008) featured one set of 20 photographs while the second week (Jan. 10-16, 2008) will feature a different set.

What is interesting about the exhibition is that she has not worked with a theme, although to what extent it has worked could at best be said to be a matter of opinion. It's quite apparent that Hoque likes vibrancy in her creations and has an eye for picking out things colourful. 'The flaming serpent', 'The jellyfish dance', 'Couple kissing by the Belgian Waffle' and 'The wedding scene' are all evidence of that. One of the photographs 'Lost in translation' is quite interesting and it takes some time for comprehension. Shot inside an elevator with mirrors it does not immediately become obvious that the photographer in fact is photographing herself. 'La Paloma dancer' and 'Dancing at the underground' are excellent examples of photos taken in very low light. But there are others like a shot of a crowd in New Market before Eid, which are slightly amateurish, and lack the creative element one would expect from a photo exhibition. What can be seen from these photographs though is a peek into the fascinating life of an enthusiastic traveller who has been in Dhaka for little over a year now on a Fulbright scholarship.

Hoque is a Nigerian born Bangladeshi American writer and photographer who after completing a Masters from the University of Pennsylvania obtained a second Masters degree from University of San Francisco in Creative Writing. She has published several poems and short stories in several publications. This is Hoque's second photography exhibition. Her first exhibition was held at the Drik Gallery in April 2007, under the same title as the book she is working on at the moment 'The Lovers and the Leavers'.

“I've only taken up photography seriously in the last couple of years,” says Hoque and while I'm still very much an amateur, I have an idea about the kinds of photographs I like to take. I love what people sometimes call street photography. While I take more than my fair share of pretty flower pictures and landscapes and sunsets, one of my favourite settings for photographs are places with motion, vibrancy, and dynamics. The photographs of Old Delhi from my exhibition or the one at New Market are both examples of classic street scenes. There is so much going on in both those photos, and they capture a moment in time, like a still from an ongoing movie. Other examples of these sorts of scenes include the old women whispering at a Durga puja, or the bua and child caught on camera at a wedding.”

“Another kind of photograph I like is when I am able to capture some unusual angle of a familiar thing or place,” she continues, “Sometimes, it's a macro shot, like the side of the bus, where a rusty blue vent looks like a fish gill to me, or a mosquito coil so close that its ash droppings are as large as bricks to the eye, or the shadow of light on stone. Other times, I focus on only part of a scene to emphasise the emotion or story behind it. The feet of a dancing couple at a club, the hands of a girl about to burst a balloon. Or I'll frame the photo to tell what I think is an interesting story: the silhouette of a monk climbing a ladder to decorate his monastery that's out of sight, the blurred face of a girl with a ruined boat focused behind her.”

Hoque who uses a 10 megapixel Canon digital SLR to take photos says that it's not financially sustainable to live on creative work. “The arts are notoriously ill-funded as a career choice, and one has to be creative, sometimes corporately so, to support that path,” she says, “although I've been lucky enough to be able to find work that both aligns with my principles and that allows me time to write and photograph.”

Abeer Hoque's exhibition is going on at Alliance Francaise in Dhaka and ends on January 16.

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