It was as a photographer of children that I had begun my career. It was way before 9/11 and one could make appointments with strangers and go to their homes. I took happy pictures of kids, and parents loved them. It was easy money, except when I would photograph the children of poor parents. They loved the pictures but couldn’t afford to pay, so I would quietly leave the pictures behind and pay the studio out of my pocket. Back in Bangladesh, the only way I could make money was as a corporate photographer, but something else was happening. We were in the streets, trying to bring down a general who had usurped power. I didn’t know it then, but I was becoming a documentary photographer. Suddenly taking pictures of children meant more than smiling kids on sheepskin rugs.
The territory I speak of is, of course, the photographic world of Shahidul Alam, which is also mine, as well as each and every one of ours. A world where we can daily sense our conscience and our faith in our planet.
Shahidul Alam is one of the most innovative and committed individuals in the field of visual journalism today, whose leadership skills, honesty, courage, and unflinching dedication to the research of the truth and to the preservation of human dignity, constitute a constant source of inspiration for his peers internationally.
In India we have many more photographers, some of them very good, and there are many galleries for art and especially photography. As well as reputed newspapers and magazines – much is happening on many levels. But we don’t have a Shahidul Alam, who can combine them into a cohesive social and creative force.
Dr. Shahidul Alam, who is founding director of Pathshala, is someone who is of extraordinary importance in the world photographic community, pushing forward initiatives to recognize the majority world, providing the rest of us with highly constructive points of view, and steadily steering Pathshala and the Drik photo agency into a globally acknowledged success story for South Asia.