Shahidul Alam: Lessons in unlearning
By Alisha Sett
12 October 2018
The eye that challenged the status quo.
In 1993, Shahidul Alam, a Bangladeshi photographer, wrote a letter to the managing director of the World Press Photo awards, asking her to consider changing the name of this renowned photographic association to Western Press Photography. It seemed evident to Alam that, although the photos he had seen were extraordinary, the World Press jury members and most of the photographers chosen as their awardees did not represent the majority of the world – Asians, Africans and Latin Americans. In an interview on Iranian television, Alam explained that when he visited the touring exhibition he was galled to see how casually a Western model, awarding Western photojournalists, was projecting a universal umbrella. The director decided to call Alam, making an equally audacious suggestion: would he bring the exhibition to Dhaka in a month? Three weeks later, the World Press Photo exhibition came to Bangladesh for the first time, displayed in Alam’s own Drik gallery. The paint on the walls was still wet when the first viewers were let in. Alam went on to become the first Southasian to chair the international jury of World Press.
More from People & Politics
Pakistan’s missing #MeToo movement
Why has #MeToo remained a murmur and not gained more traction in Pakistan?
Lewis-Kuznets meet Gandhi-Ambedkar
A report looks at the state of India’s workers amid the employment crisis.
Bahunvada: Myth or reality?
ARCHIVE: The Kathmandu essayist on the history of ethnic hierarchy in modern Nepal (1992).
Sri Lanka’s constitutional crisis explained
By The Editors
What you need to know about the political crisis in Colombo.
The dragon bites its tail – Part III
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Part III of our longform reportage from 1992 on Bhutan’s Lhotshampa q...
The dragon bites its tail – Part II
FROM THE ARCHIVES: A longform piece on Bhutan’s Lhotshampa question .