Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power presents the first comprehensive U.S. museum survey of Shahidul Alam, the renowned Bangladeshi photographer, writer, activist, and institution-builder and a Time magazine Person of the Year in 2018. Over 40 images and ephemera will show the breadth of his practice and impact throughout his four-decade career. The exhibition includes portraits, landscapes, and scenes of daily life, strife, and resistance in the “majority world”—a phrase Alam has used since the 1990s to reframe the notion of the “third world” or “global south.” The term also confronts the ways in which Western media continues to define how the majority of the world’s population—especially Bangladesh—is portrayed in relation to poverty and disaster.
This pioneering exhibition aims to provide visitors with a nuanced view of Bangladesh and South Asia, to explore systems of personal and collective agency, and to underscore the importance of self-representation, empowerment, and truth as embodied in Alam’s life and work.
While shining an unflinching light on major Bangladeshi tragedies and struggles, Alam’s images reveal a country and cultures often misunderstood and misrepresented. In addition to his powerful photographs, Alam has made an impact in Bangladesh, across South Asia, and even globally as the conceptual architect of transformative institutions, including Drik Picture Library, Drik Gallery, Pathshala South Asia Media Institute, Chobi Mela Photography Festival, and Majority World Photos. The regional solidarity he catalyzed cannot be overstated and will be illustrated through the exhibition narrative.
Alam’s role as changemaker is one he inhabits with equal resolve and energy. His belief in nurturing visual literacy has driven him to go beyond mere advocacy: Through the institutions he has built, he empowers the disenfranchised and misrepresented to tell their own stories.
About the Author
Shahidul Alam (born 1955) is a Bangladeshi photojournalist, teacher, and social activist. He has been a photographer for more than forty years and his photographs have been published in almost every major western media outlet.
Alam founded the Drik Picture Library in 1989, the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka in 1998, “which has trained hundreds of photographers”, and the Chobi Mela International Photography Festival in 1999. Alam is a visiting professor at the University of Sunderland in the UK. His books include Nature’s Fury (2007) and My Journey as a Witness (2011).
In 2014 he was awarded the Shilpakala Padak by the President of Bangladesh and in 2018 the Humanitarian Award from the Lucie Awards.
On 5 August 2018, Alam was arrested and detained shortly after giving an interview to Al Jazeera and posting live videos on Facebook that criticized the government’s violent response to the 2018 Bangladesh road safety protests. Many international humanitarian organizations and news media called for his release without charge. He was granted bail on 20 November 2018. He was one of the persons of the year selected by Time Magazine in 2018. (via Wikipedia)