You will know me when you hold me. Deolotpur, Benapole, Bangladesh.
India on My Mind. Deolotpur, Benapole, Bangladesh.
A hawker point into pamphlet showing the map of Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Asif, one of my travelling companions, hugs his mother as he said good bye after we made a stop in their hometown.
Tanzim and Raul. Deolotpur, Benapole, Bangladesh.
A Ripple Caused by a Boy. Ballaghat-Jaflong, Bangladesh
In Search of Intimacy preempts a space of negotiation, of exchange, of mutual sharing (give-and-receive) between me and the many persons I have met and photographed in the course of the journey across Bangladesh. It is my story weaved with theirs, and mine in theirs. This story is also our fate, our path and, in hindsight, our pact. It carries things that could not be worded. Questions that could not be answered. Misgivings that could be forgiven. Exchanges that are untranslatable.
Yet, it is not so much about anything as an attempt to speak from within something; from within a place.
A place where, if ever there is an end, my heart will fall into. Where perhaps one day, I will become all the encounters of my journey.
A place of needful utopia.
Fertility. Bhallaghat-Jaflong, Bangladesh.
A Bird will Serve as a Milestone. Deolotpur, Benapole, Bangladesh.
It's Also Fine to be a Chameleon. Deolotpur, Benapole, Bangladesh.
A hawker sells his goods at the Benapole border. He is facing the direction of the border checkpoint from where he expects prospective buyers crossing into Bangladesh from India.
At the India-Bangladesh border at Benapole, two women look on in anticipation of the 4pm daily "friendship parade" enacted by Indian and Bangladeshi military personnel.
The Weight of Tenderness. (On the Road), Bangladesh.
During one of our “washroom” stops, I saw them slowly riding by. I had to run some half a mile to catch up with them. I asked to photograph them. They obliged – with their eyes. Those balloons! What are the odds that he holds them so delicately, carefully, inflated (and ready to be gifted to someone?) I would think of the colours – how they make them stand out against the misty sky and a gloomy road. Could he be taking the balloons home to a waiting daughter or nephew? Could they be a substitute for flowers for his wife? I didn’t ask. I just relished the possibility that life could open a portal for such beautiful oddities on a lonely road, far away. A portal invoked by the encounter of strangers on a journey.
There is always an image before an image.
I have made a point to show, as diptychs or triptychs, near-identical images – distinguished only by the shift in composition resulting, in turn, from a change in an event – as an attempt to reference the rupture induced by the impulse of the photographed personage(s). A rupture that, although presented as a temporally linear occurrence, speaks to a photograph’s struggle with capturing time born out of the transience of relative subjectivity. In a way, it is to contest the notion of the “decisive moment” as a gaze that empowers the photographer (as the final arbiter of moments)more than it preserves the agency of the photographed.
Siblings and the Twin Tomb at Sylhet Division, an India-Bangladesh border point.
There, Time. Here, Time. Bangladesh.
A boy and his father. Tin Bigha Corridor, West-Bengal, Bangladesh Border.
A child sweeps clean the front yard of her house at the border town of Hili.
A Walking, Working Feet and a Border Pillar. Tin Bigha Corridor, West-Bengal Bangladesh border.
Officer Rakim at the Bangladesh Border Post. Hili, Bangladesh.
A familial Moment into Two Acts. Hili, Bangladesh.
A family takes a group selfie on top of a rock just at the zero-point line where Bangladesh meets India at border town of Jaflong. This border post is also a tourist attraction with Bangladeshis and Indians moving back and forth or enjoying special moments together. The only indication of a border marker are the military officials of both countries making sure no one crosses the "invisible lines" earmarked by their presence. Here, the border post becomes, also, a space of recreation and conviviality.
What I am interested in is how bodies communicate in and with space; how every gesture of the body is a transformed energy. How body energies manifest as fragments blocks of freewill upon which the atmosphere of a given place or people is built. Most evident in this journey is the unassuming hospitality, generosity of the Bangladeshi people we met so far. It is a regenerative and life-giving kind of generosity—the kind that wells up from the foundation of a people’s character and their will to be.
A leap at Zero Point in Three Acts. Tin Bigha Corridor, West-Bengal, Bangladesh.
It is customary, in Bangladeshi, to indicate the "last house" or "Zero point" where Bangladesh ends and India begins represented by border pillars or monuments. This is understandable as, more often than not, the two countries merge into each other arbitrarily. Here, one of the participants (prompted by the photographer) enacts a "leap" across a zero-point monument. This performative photograph signals the use of the body as "an object of useful agitation" in the negotiation of border conditions – a frame of thought which informs the conceptual premise of the project.
Two Friends in Conversation 1. Benapole, Bangladesh
Two Friends in Conversation 2. Benapole, Bangladesh
In this project, I am often reminded of how much the photographic outcome is conjured by the human subject's innate compulsion to "own" the moment photographed. There is something about the insistent gaze of a woman (however unobtrusive), clutching a child close to her side, that points to the instinct of protection.
A hand that gives cold water gives warm life.
It all begins with the gaze. Whenever I think of the eyes, I often default to how much they are central to the definition of affection in the Igbo language of the people of Nigeria, my country of origin. The closest translation of the word Love is “to see in the eye”. Thus, all the while, I am looking to understand how the eyes work in this context. What is behind those concentrated stares? Is it curiosity, inquisitiveness or mere fascination? Is there anything else there beyond the shock of unfamiliarity?
May the Light Lead Your Eyes, Not Blind Them.
Faces on the Road Side.
A donation table for a relief project. Tin Bigha Corridor, West-Bengal India-Bangladesh Border.
For every eye that has looked at me before it is followed by “which country are you from?”, I have felt – for the most part – an opening, a window that encouraged me to reach out and engage. Thus, while it may seem I am looked at and photographed more by the people, I too have been looking at them. Every photograph I have made on this road trip comes from the window opened up by the people’s gaze and curiosity towards me.
Every photograph represents the exchange and intersection of energies mutually negotiated by our gaze towards each other. What makes it feel somewhat awkward in this case is that I am not just the one behind the camera, I am also a protagonist in other people’s stories over which I have no control.
A Brief Moment with Nazma.
A boy (working with parents) at the quarry. Ballaghat Jaflong.
Artists and fellow travelling companions
In Search of Intimacy
In February 2020, I travelled across Bangladesh – a distance of over 2000km – in the context of the Trans-Bangladeshi Road Trip project. It was a collaboration between Invisible Borders Trans-African Photographers Organisation and The Drik/Pathshala/Chobi Mela Group Bangladesh. We travelled across 5 states while making stops at points (towns, cities, no man’s land, corridors) where Bangladesh borders India. There were altogether eight participants who produced photographic, textual and film works during the two weeks road trip.
On this journey, I am thinking of intimacy. Perhaps, better to say I am in search of it. Looking out for where my energy, my body – imbued with memory and thus language; intuition, its own desire to break open, to break apart while still held together; held together by its volition to remain unresolved, falling off the edge or tethering at its brink – resolves itself in an encounter.
I am in search of beauty – the fleeting kind. Like the candour of fizzling smoke from a dying cigarette butt. Sometimes hidden under a shadow cast by feet, A walking, working feet I would turn, shedding the weight of my own limitations As if to reduce to fraction the friction between my bones A bird, no less obscure than a silhouette, will serve as a timestamp A marker of lines, a pillar of borders, a dot in a cross between longitude and latitude – reminder that, though we walk and trot, ultimately we fly.
I am in search of knowledge – the intimate kind Like in the chatter of two friends, heard only by them, and perhaps – The wind. They stand in a rice field that so many, far away, would mistake for a minefield. They would point to a faraway distance before them As if to conjure a horizon from contoured clouds, Above equally contoured countries All the while reminding themselves that the ground under them is Indeed what it is.
In Search of Intimacy preempts a space of negotiation, of exchange, of mutual sharing (give-and-receive) between me and the many persons I have met and photographed in the course of the journey across Bangladesh. It is my story weaved with theirs, and min...
There is always an image before an image. I have made a point to show, as diptychs or triptychs, near-identical images – distinguished only by the shift in composition resulting, in turn, from a change in an event – as an attempt to refe...
What I am interested in is how bodies communicate in and with space; how every gesture of the body is a transformed energy. How body energies manifest as fragments blocks of freewill upon which the atmosphere of a given place or people is built. Most evid...
In this project, I am often reminded of how much the photographic outcome is conjured by the human subject's innate compulsion to "own" the moment photographed. There is something about the insistent gaze of a woman (however unobtrusive), cl...
It all begins with the gaze. Whenever I think of the eyes, I often default to how much they are central to the definition of affection in the Igbo language of the people of Nigeria, my country of origin. The closest translation of the word Love is “...
For every eye that has looked at me before it is followed by “which country are you from?”, I have felt – for the most part – an opening, a window that encouraged me to reach out and engage. Thus, while it may seem I am looked at a...