Smoke and ashes blow everywhere. Workers’ bodies turn black in smoke and ashes and their feet turn black like coal. Still they continue to work in a dreamless brick field. In the middle of this Rozina dreams to go back to her village. Rahmat tries hard to save a few pennies, the children continue to collect coal. Very Far from the town the workers of the brick field continue to work to build our urban world.
I see the beauty of people and the human soul in the pictures I take. Although the circumstances of some of the people I portray may be grim, back-breaking, or even depraved, the people themselves are always Home
Abir Abdullah was born in 1971. Started photography career in 1996 at Drik Picture Library, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is currently working for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) as Bangladesh correspondent.
Photographs published in Blink, Time, Newsweek, Der Speigel, New Internationalist, Guardian, International Herald Tribune, Asiaweek, Elmundo, Stern, Geo etc.
Abir’s sensitive work on environmental issues is especially notable. His numerous awards include Mother Jones, NPPA, Days Japan, and Islamic Unity-Iran.
He completed the three year seminar ‘Pleasure of Life’ assigned and supported by World Press Photo Foundation Netherlands. His photographs have been exhibited in Europe, South America, Asia and the U.S. His work has been published in the World Press Photo book New Stories and Phaidon Press’ Blink
I have started a self-financed project near the end of March 2011, which is presently on going. My story is based on the by-product of this phenomenon. Although, a thousand words are not enough to describe the situation in Shatkhira, I hope my photographs would fill in the gaps.
The only prospect one can expect to witness in this rural area is the presence of never-ending miles of dead lands, robbed of their fertility. Some regions are always waterlogged. There is water everywhere, but not a drop to drink! The most severe times are the summers and winters, when rainfall is minimum. Preserving some rainwater is lucky, otherwise they have to travel long distances to acquire pure drinking water. This new age has proved to be difficult for the farmers because farming is not an possible; the agrarian nature of the indigenous people has rapidly faded like the dying lands. With nothing to feed their children, the people have picked up shrimp and crab farming. The international market for this is enormous and the people were quick enough to shift their priorities.
However, these farms are gigantic and require lesser manpower. So, this change in occupation has only increased unemployment, as many do not posses any land at all and most do not even have the opportunity to farm shrimp. The other option (sometimes the only option) is to enter the forests of Sundarbans to fish and collect honey; but the jungle often means death for these people. Many have died from tiger attacks and many still die. Some have lost their sons and fathers, while some have no one to live for. Many have been widowed and many more injured. The locals refer to some villages as ‘widow villages.’
With such dangers, many choose the easy way out and turn into pirates, kidnapping whomever they can from the jungle and demanding a ransom from their families. To sum up, one can either cultivates shrimp (which pays very little); put their lives in danger by going to the forests filled with hungry tigers and even fiercesome pirates. On the other hand, some have capitalized on this opportunity to gain more influence and power over the locals. These men are the rich landowners who rent their lands for cultivation, and also loan money to the needy with harsh interest rates. They are only ones who have benefitted from climate change. The majority are victims.
“ Hamida“ (45) is a native who has lost both her husband and son in two consecutive years. They both died as a result of tiger attacks. She is suffering. Her daily income is less than a dollar. She doesn’t let her younger son go to the forest; she would rather have him be unemployed. She is afraid she might lose him too. Now she can only stare at the salted lands and hope for it all to be a bad dream.
Some fortunate ones thank their gods and goddesses for letting them survive the tiger attacks, even though they were seriously injured. “ Shubash“ (40) had first hand experience with one of the attacks. He lost a fraction of his face to a starving tiger and was disabled. He will have to spend the rest of his life with this disability. His son has to go the forest now and bring home dinner. They are not the only ones – there are many others like them.
My project offers insight into these helpless people’s lives. I have seen children deprived of their parents and wives deprived of their families. Initially, I was ashamed of myself for not being able to do anything. However, when I see the warm glow of hope in some of their eyes, I instantly believe that I am doing something. I know that even by just talking to them I create a thin but existent layer of hope for them. For them, it’s a sign that at least someone cares – even if it is an insignificant person like me
Born in 1983 in Bangladesh. He is a graduate of Pathshala.
Wasif began his career in photography as a feature photographer for the Daily Star, a leading English daily in Bangladesh. His photographs have been published in numerous national and international publications including Le Monde, Himal Southasian, Asian Geographic, Photo District News, Zonezero, PDFX12 and the Daily Star.
In 2007, he was selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. He won an “Honorable Mention” in the All Roads Photography Program from the National Geographic Society for his extensive work on Old Dhaka.
His work is exhibited worldwide including in the Anchor Photo Festival in Cambodia, the International Photography Biennial of the Islamic World in Iran, Fotofreo- Festival of Photography in Australia, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Japan and Getty image gallery in England. Recently he was elected as one of the 30 emerging photographers by Photo District News, USA. In 2008 he received the F25 Prize from La Fabrica and the Young Reporter Award from the City of Perpignan during the Visa pour l’Image festival. He also won the PrixPictet commission to document a water project in Bangladesh.