The Majority World: Reconfiguring the Frame
A Talk by Shahidul Alam
Thursday, May 31, 2007
12:30 PM - 2:30 PM
11377 Bunche Hall, UCLA
One recent study has shown that "upward of 90% of the images of the developing world (now increasingly called 'majority world') are taken by white non-indigenous photographers, either in-country staff of development organisations or commissioned photographers sent in-country by the 'western' media." Charities and development agencies need to raise money from the western public. It has been felt that the best way to pull the heart strings - and thereby the purse strings - is to show those doleful eyes that a few pennies could save.
With the advent of the internet and digital photography it should be easier than ever for photographers from the Majority World to present their own reality in the global media. But old prejudices die hard.
Perhaps photographers from the South cannot be trusted to understand this? Perhaps they are so hardened to such images of daily suffering that they are unable to appreciate the impact these sights might have on western audiences - and the coffers of western aid agencies.
The talk explains the underlying causes behind this prejudice and narrates the tale of resistance against it.
About Shahidul Alam:
Shahidul Alam is one of the world's most recognized and exciting photographers and a major figure in the public, intellectual, and cultural life of Bangladesh. The sheer versatility of Mr. Alam's accomplishments can be gauged from the fact that he is a principal figure in the human rights movement in Bangladesh, but also the person who first introduced email to Bangladesh and first launched a photography gallery in the nation's capital. He founded the Bangladesh Human Rights Network (http://www.banglarights.net) in 2001. His work in the late 1980s and early 1990s was recognized by the Mother Jones Award in 1992, the first time it had ever been awarded to an Asian. He has since gone on to win numerous international recognitions, including the Andrea Frank Foundation Award and the Howard Chapnick Award [for excellence in photojournalism], both conferred in 1998, and induction as a Honorary Fellow into the Royal Photographic Society (UK). Mr. Alam also serves as a juror for National Geographic. He founded the Drik Picture Library (http://www.drik.net) in 1989, the Bangladesh Photographic Institute in 1990, Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography (http://www.pathshala.net) in 1998, and Meghbarta, Bangladesh's first webzine (http://www.meghbarta.org) in 1999. Pathshala brings to Dhaka visiting professors, not only of photography, but of allied fields, such as literature, art, and art history. As though this were not enough, Mr. Alam founded Chobi Mela (http://www.chobimela.org), a festival of photography, in 2000. His own photographs have been exhibited in the leading venues of the world, including the Museum of Modern Art [MOMA}, New York, the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Tehran, and the Photographer's Gallery in London. His photographs have been published in newspapers and magazines of mass circulation, among them Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Observer, Liberation, Paris Match and The New Straits Times. Among the latest initiatives in which he is involved is majorityworld.com, which "champions the cause of indigenous photographers from the developing world and the global South."
See also ShahidulNews at http://shahidul.wordpress.com
On his visit to UCLA as a Regents' Lecturer, Mr. Alam will also be available on campus to those faculty and students who wish to speak to him about his work. To set up an appointment with him, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture caption: The feet of a Bangladeshi migrant worker in Paris. (Photo by Shahidul Alam)
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Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia