It’s rare these days that a jaded old photographer like me finds something positive about the industry but that is exactly what has happened in the last week in Chittagong in Bangladesh.
As you may remember, I was asked to lead a workshop for aspiring photojournalism students from Norway and Bangladesh on behalf of the Pathshala Institute
headed by the prolific Shahidul Alam. It was a rather daunting challenge. The only workshop that I’d ever attended was as a young photographer myself at the World Press Masterclass in 1998. I’ve had no formal photographic education and, despite giving a dozen or so lectures and talks over the years, I wasn’t confident that I could add much to these students education. I need not have worried. Ably assisted by the extraordinary Abir Abdullah, an exceptional educator in his own right, I think – I hope – that I managed to pass on something of the little I know to the students.
I must say that the Norwegians were for their age, exceptional visual journalists and it was a lesson for me to see them produce their assignments with an energy and proficiency that would put many established UK professionals to shame. I think to a person their level of visual literacy was far higher than I was expecting. The Bangladeshi’s, some a product of the Pathshala Institute and some having just completed a basic photography course struggled a little with the idea of storytelling – the theme of the workshop. That said, their determination and enthusiasm was a pleasure to witness. I felt by the end that the concept of a photo-essay was firmly entrenched. As a matter of fact, despite some rather cliched ideas of what a documentary project could look like, it was a two Bangladeshi students – both women I should add – that produced ideas for their course projects that impressed me most. Both decided to work on the personal sphere. In an industry dominated by men and seemingly endless stories of poverty and darkness it was a welcome change.
It was also my first visit to Bangladesh – a pleasant journey from the cold English winter and Chittagong and it’s people in particular I have to thank for being so welcoming and open. I’m now due to come back in the summer to shoot a story. I’m looking forward to it already.
Delhi waits for me now – a flight from Dhaka and then almost a month in India. I have a corporate assignment there and then two stories that I need to work on.
As usual I shall be on:
It just remains for me to say thank you in particular to Abir, Shoeb and his wife (what a lovely meal), Joseph Rozario (a marvel), Ashraf (for all his patience with me), Shadab (for his kindness) and to the students – firstly for their beautiful and unexpected gifts (you know who you are…) and secondly for their patience and unwavering attention even when I’m sure I was talking rubbish… you all touched me deeply. I hope we stay in touch. Thank you.
For now I leave you with some images from the workshop and one of a couple of frames that I had time to make myself in Chittagong.