“I breathe in photography. Without photography I have no existence.” – GMB Akash
Gone are the days when any news by the international media on Bangladesh would invariably contain photos of political disturbances and natural disasters. Thanks to many talented young amateur and professional photographers you will find thousands of photos on Bangladesh online, especially in photo sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa, showing the other sides of Bangladesh. There are also a number of photobloggers emerging from Bangladesh sharing their works and photo essays.
I would like to introduce to you the works of one such photographer and blogger who is making quite an impression in the international arena in portraying Bangladesh. GMB Akash's passion for photography began in 1996. He attended the World Press Photo seminar in the capital Dhaka for 3 years and graduated from Pathshala, the South Asian photography institute in Dhaka.
He has received more than 40 international awards from all around the world and his work has been featured in over 50 major international news and media publications. His awards include the World Press Photo award (2006) and the International Travel photographer of the year award (2009). Read an interview at Tiffinbox to learn more about him.
He writes about his photos:
These images are stories of my won experiences. I am displaying a short view about the tour of my life. These journeys blend me with so many characters of my life. Sometimes I run, sometimes I ride on the top of the roof of the train, I sleep in the flooded floor, I swim, I hang on, spend a long time in slums and above all I meet these souls. I become one of them in a while. These adventures lay in the bed of danger. But after reaching to those people, getting entry to their door and when they take me as friend all my hard work and risks become worthy. I will keep walking, touching every face through my lens. I will show the world those unknown stories of sufferings. If a single hand comes to give them a shade that will be the real honor of my sweat.
It was 1999, when I first realized I need to focus stories on helpless communities. For that feeling, there was a story behind. As a child, I was a frequent visitor to my uncle’s house at Narayangonj, some 25 kilometers north of Dhaka. My uncle had a hermaphrodite locally called as Hijra, whose name was “Khushi” -meaning happiness, but that is what she very much lacked in her life.
Hijras get a mixed reception from the people; the middle class thinks them as bad omen even the sight of a Hijra in the morning is regarded as the same and believed can spoil the whole day. Where as among the lower class they are believed to posses spiritual powers as they are deprived of the joys of a normal life, their prayers are believed to be answered.
His photoblog contains stories of pain, sufferings, joy and hope of the ordinary people of Bangladesh. In the photo essay born to work he shares the issue of child labor:
Shilu works separating sand and stone. At least 10,000 people, including 2,500 women and over 1,000 children, are engaged in stone and sand collection from the Bhollar Ghat on the banks of the Piyain River. Building materials such as stone and sand, and the cement which is made from it, are in short supply in Bangladesh, and commands a high price from building contractors. The average income is around 150 taka (less than 2 USD) a day. Jaflong, Sylhet
Watch his TEDx talk in Portugal at TEDxO'Porto 2011 where he discussed his long term project, ‘Survivors’ offering an in-depth understanding of the process and motivation behind this kind of work. Survivors: “The invincibility of human determination to struggle and survive against all odds” is a book by Galleria di Porta Pepice of the photographs by GMB Akash.