Lost among the vast mustard fields of Bangladesh, smile little princesses. They jump, they play, and they talk all day long. They are the real beauty of our country, Bangladesh.
For those with an amateur, professional or hobbyist interest in travel photography, we can’t emphasise enough that Bangladesh is a spectacular photographic destination, full of people, human landscapes and photogenic stories that have scarcely been told in the travel media around the rest of the world.
To start with, people in Bangladesh are incredibly eager to be photographed and are scarcely burdened with concerns over privacy. This is because people who live in the most densely populated nation in the world have, unsurprisingly, very little sense of privacy and are therefore mostly open and enthusiastic having their image taken. Cameras, small or large, are often a cause for stir and attention; this often means that people photographers need to usher their subjects carefully and even shoo bystanders out of the photos if required (working in teams or two or more is helpful in this regard).
In terms of human landscapes, south Asia has always been a destination of choice for photographers seeking to tell ‘people stories’, tales that involve the fundamental elements of that which makes us human and how we interact with the Earth. In particular, Bangladesh’s riverine and rural landscapes are incredibly beautiful, especially during the monsoon season where anvil-shaped cumulus clouds cap the pan-flat landscape.
Finally, those seeking to improve their portfolio of people stories will find plenty of opportunities and organisations to work with. It is advisable here to take the advice of local photographers whenever possible, so that the local conditions and stories can firstly be told more effectively, but secondly so that Bangladeshi culture is respected. In particular, we recommend the photographic guiding services of Map Foto Bangladesh (159 East Tejturi Bazar, 4th floor, Tejgaon Railgate; [mobile] 01715 759463 (Mahmud), 01819 223508 (Kiron), 01711 664254 (Sujan); [email] info[at]mapfoto.com.bd; www.mapfoto.com.bd). This small photographic collective has published over a dozen books between them all and will work as photographic guides on commission or even host photographic interns. Serious students might also want to network with DRIK, a multimedia organisation with a local photographic school (Pathshala) and much deeper connections to Bangladesh’s photographic community. In 2012, the DRIK gallery hosted the 2012 World Press Photo Exhibition, one of the world’s premiere exhibitions of journalistic photography, of which Bangladeshi photographers have won various prizes over the years.
For all the enthusiasm as to the calibre of images created in Bangladesh, there is a darker, deeper story regarding photography’s role in this country. Because of Bangladesh’s recent history as a war-torn nation and pauperisation at the hands of the British colonialism, an incredibly deep poverty still grips a great majority of the population. As a result there are several associated stories of depravity and injustice, ultimately stemming from poverty. Many photographers, both local and foreign, have made significant careers out of capturing this.
While we wholeheartedly agree that journalistic photographers have a responsibility to point out social injustice anywhere in the world, this unbalanced image of Bangladesh as beggar has deeply blunted the potential of the country and kept it off the radar of direct foreign investment for years: Bangladesh’s ‘brand’ has never been one people wanted to buy, although there are signs that this is slowly changing, despite unfathomable hindrances inherent in the political and economic system.
Despite these challenges, the authors of this guide have undertaken a new initiative that seeks to balance the image of Bangladesh worldwide and create an avenue by which photographers both Bangladeshi and foreign can publicise the images of the passion they feel for the country.
We have called this initial project ‘Positive Light’ and published two photography books and programmed a website for the collection and distribution of images, which we hope will balance the story. All images published here become available under Creative Commons licenses, which means that anyone, anywhere can reuse these images online at no cost. At the time of publication about 150 photographers had joined this network and there were about 750 images in stock already, however we would like to see this project move further ahead.
If you have an interest in travel photography in Bangladesh, and would like to join a movement helping to show the potential you see within Bangladeshi people, please join us at our website or Facebook page.