‘This is going to be an epic,’ my first reaction, when I heard of the retrospective book by Pathshala. The whole idea of singling out the excellence, which the institution had produced so far, and promoting them in a common platform, was simply breath-taking.
I was wondering there might have those students, who passed long back and left behind their camera and portfolio bag at any quiet crossroad on the way of life. I could imagine them evoking the good old days and may even step in the dusty storeroom, trying to find pictures those gone astray long back.
Selecting fifteen photographers, out of the student register that started counting from 1999, I hardy make any guess how difficult it might have been. The photographers who have made it to the book are fighters as they tackled all the hurdles with their talent of taking pictures as well as attempting into different subject matters.
People do ask me how do I feel as entrant in the saga, I often smile skip the answer. Well, if a 2nd-year student was asked, The how he feels as his name will be uttered in same breath with names like Abir Abdullah, Andrew Biraj, Saiful Haque Omi and Munem Wasif, how would expect him to answer that.
One thing I would like mention for sure, the accomplishment of my fellow batch mates in this book, is something I am really proud off. Specially, ‘Desperate Urbanization’ and ‘Fatalistic Tendency’ are two excellent additions to the book.
For the last twelve years, there was been many criticism marking the photographic approach Patshala has introduced. This book, the first of its kind in our country, will re-define the term Photography in Bangladesh and also will be a letter to those so-called critics who blamed Patshala for stereotyping. No, I am not trying to be an intellectual, but I doubt if those people really can differentiate between taking a picture and photography.
I really don’t know the exact number of the students studying at Phatshala at the moment and those to completed their degree from here but this was one occasion for all of them to talk about, think about and get into action.
As Shahdiul Alam stated, “They reject the notion of walls. This is Pathshala and Bangladeshi photography shamelessly showing off. Long may it do so.”
Dear students and fellow teachers,
On the 15th November Abir Abdullah, Andrew Biraj, Munem Wasif and Tanzim Wahab, presented to me all the portfolios that had been submitted for the Pathshala book. I was blown away by the work, not only in terms of quality but also because of its diversity. It is remarkable that this school, over such a short period has created such a varied and impressive range of photographic work.
I have, over the years seen the work of many schools of photography the world over and can honestly say that there is no school anywhere that can match the levels our current and former students have achieved. While not all of you have submitted work, I can clearly see that many of you have had an influence upon others, which shows through. Our challenge was in limiting ourselves to 15 bodies of work when there were so many that deserved to be in the book. The fact that several photographers whose work is outstanding, will not be in the book, leaves me with a heavy heart. On the other hand, that even such good work, can be left out, because other work, with new perspectives, staked a place, is evidence of your collective strength. In the end, you have been your own competition. While I know some of you will be disappointed at not having been included, please do not see it as a sign of weakness in your work.
The selection was based on a complex set of criteria where different trends in photography which reflected the directions in which Pathshala students were working, needed to be reflected. As such, very fine work, which clearly deserved to be seen had to be left out, to accommodate work which broached new territory. I was personally very saddened that some of my favourites had to be left out. It was a collective decision and I stand by the decision that we made. However, I would like to share with you an information that I have since made, based not so much on what went into the book, but because some of the work left out was so strong.
I am currently working on an exhibition of Bangladeshi photography jointly with an Italian curator. However, while that will contain the work of twenty photographers, since it will also include the work of non-Pathshala photographers, I can see that I will still face problems. It is a problem I am proud to have to face, and I thank you for placing me in that dilemma. While I am only listing 15 photographers here whose work has been included, I congratulate you collectively for presenting such fine work. There are several bodies of work which are not in this short list, which I would be proud to show any day. I thank you for giving me that pride.
Principal List of photographers included in the upcoming book
Saiful Huq Omi
Gazi Nafis Ahmed