I'm pleased to see that GMB Akash, a photographer from Bangladesh, has been named as one of PDN's 30 New & Emerging Photographers for 2007. Since I started TTP blog, I've been introduced to the enormous talent coming from South Asia and Asia itself. This emerging talent is still under-represented in the international media and lacks the exposure it deserves, but it's getting there.
Akash (I don't really know what GMB stands for, so I'll use Akash rather than an acronym) is a brave photographer, documenting sides of society that are not pretty. His photographs are courageous, complex and make us think. His use of color, available light and sense of timing allows him to photograph what others may not.
I read that his photograph of the young boy in chains caused a furore in Bangladesh, and that Akash has had to seek temporary refuge, or was stranded, in Germany. I don't know if that is true or not, but he now seems to be back in his country, photographing as usual.
I've chosen his gallery of photographs on Muslim medresas to showcase here on TTP. While some of you will form an opinion on Muslim schools from these photographs (if you don't have one already), I'd like you to also consider that not all medresas shackle their students nor treat them badly. I don't know why this unfortunate boy was treated in such a barbaric and primitive way but for the sake of fairness and objectivity, here's a photograph I've taken in an Indonesian Muslim school in Bali (Indonesia). The photograph is from my Bali Canang gallery. I had just dropped in on the school where I was warmly welcomed, and invited to photograph as I pleased. You'll agree that the difference is striking.
Still reflecting on the boy in chains...is it to keep him from running away, and joining street kids...and is it therefore for his own good? He looks well-fed, clean and healthy. Is there a story behind the photograph, and was it that which caused the furore in Bangadesh? There must be a reason why this child is treated this way and not the rest of the medresa's children. I'm certainly not condoning this treatment (which I deem barbaric) but questions must be asked and hopefully answered, and I -for one- will not take the photograph at its face value.
Akash's website has many other galleries, most of which deal with issues related to certain facets of non-mainstream South Asian society, so go ahead...explore a world many of us do not know.
GMB Akash's Muslim Schools