Friday, February 04, 2005


Been busy recently, thus the dearth in postings. Here's a quick recap of my rather crazy and hectic and wonderfully busy past few days.

Am now taking part in a photography workshop, thanks to the charitable nature of my boss Shahidul. It's a month-long, and it's actually an exchange programme of sorts between local students of Pathshala (the photo school affiliated with Drik) and students from a photography university in Norway. There's about 20 plus of us in total.

The highlights of the class includes a four day workshop which started yesterday with Jack Picone... who won international prizes in photojournalism, including one from World Press Photos. He's Australian, and awfully charming.

He'll be giving us two assignments, and evaluating our work individually. We only have one day or less to do it, so I spent the whole of today and half of yesterday at a dockyard next to the Buriganga River, near old Dhaka. The experience, needless to say, is unbelievable and undescribable. For once I'm having a taste of what it's like to be a photojournalist, and it's all very good. I get to do the journalism that I like, go in depth with the characters I photograph, ask questions like I'm writing a story - and I get to take photographs.

The other highlight is that we have a major assignment which we have 2 weeks to complete. The topic is up to us, and we've to do a photojournalims subject on it.

Right now, the thing I'm still thinking of what to do. But I am inclined towards profiling a street family which I spotted and photographed one night. The mother was asleep, father doped out and stoned, and daughter practising writing Bengali on a scrap of paper with one candle under their makeshift tent along the road.

Have spoken to them, with the help of a local student Rajiv, and it looks good. the girl doesn't go to school, and the mom teaches her. Father sells cannabis by the road. They liked the three of us (me, rajiv, lars) and invited us to come back whenever and to their actual home somewhere else.

It's all looking good. I plan to stay with them on the street for a week and just photograph non stop.

About the people, thanks to the workshop, I've been meeting a lot of new people who have been immensly helpful.

The local students are a gem. They assigned us in groups, and Rajiv is our local guide.

Rajiv is 22, huge eyes, communist, avid photographer who believes more in symmertry and placement than journalistic content. Strongly against capitalism, speaks fairly good english, fiercely proud of his country, and just one helluva great guy.

Also, Lars is Norwegian, and he's in our group. He's one of the older ones, he just turned 28 about an hour ago.

This part here is for GUIQING.

Let's just say that Lars is the heterosexual, younger version of Cenite.

Aquarian. Shaved head. Has a degree in philosophy before he took up photography. Talks in the same half reserved, half amused manner. Keen photojournalist, works in a newspaper back home, beliefs in the Bresson's decisive moment, carries a backpack too heavy for me to lift, prefers to work alone, and a workaholic who quit his one pack a day smoking habit 5 weeks ago - and still struggling with that.

I'm jealous of Norwegians. They have free education, including up to university level. They have free health care. They have mountains and fjords.

Lars and I share the same view on... almost everything. Including the thing about being "fundamentally alone". Not that I necessarily believe him because he's so in love with his girlfriend. He constantly questions whatever I say or ask, which is refreshing because everyone has been trying to be Miss/Mr Congeniality all this while. Rajiv is also not afraid to disagree.

All this is working out very well.

I'm seeing more of Dhaka than I've ever had before. I've gotten the guts to move around on my own, and I don't think it's that unsafe anymore. Just make friends with everyone, which is not that difficult, because I'm a foreigner and everyone wants to be my friend. The more people I'm friendly with, the less the chances of something bad happening to me, because i've so many people lookingo ut for me.

I really love it now.

Speaking quite a decent amount of Bangla. Enough to get information like names and ages. And to ask them to bring me to their houses, how long they've been staying here etc.

Everywhere I go, I'm still attracted to the children. It makes me a walking cliche of course, but I can't help it. The children here are so alive. and most of them stop being shy after a short while.

So today I spent the afternoon carrying Razu, 3, thorugh the streets of a village next to the river while his sister Aasia, 9, tried to find her mother for me to photograph. We didn't find her, but it made me really happy to carry Razu - who in every single way, acts like a spoilt Prince of the World.

I know this entry has been disgustingly boring and some people I know reading this are probably going to want to kill me after this... Sorry lah. I'm typing fast because I want to sleep. Woke up at 5 am today to make it to the river before sunrise, and I haven't stopped moving or working since. I'm exhausted. But goddamn happy. Goodnight.


Tym said...

You should keep a photo-blog too. That would be a great way to document your time in Dhaka.

PS: Norway, like its Scandinavian counterparts, has egregiously high taxes.

Ghim Lay said...

aiyah why apologise for what you're writing? i love it, and i don't think it's indulgent. i'm glad you're getting quite an experience there, cherish the rest of the five months =)