25 Years of Drik

Hard to believe it, but there are still people with an interest in photography who haven’t heard of Drik, the innovated photo agency set up by Shahidul Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh 25 years ago. As he puts it in his blog, “Tired of being pitied for our poverty, and do-gooder attempts to ‘save’ us, we had decided to become our own storytellers.”

Shahidul Alam talking in London in 2011

It has been a difficult journey, starting on shoestring resources, and for which they also had to create much of the infrastructure, including setting up Bangladesh’s first email network using Fidonet. The government did their worst to close them because of their support for human rights, sending police to shut down some of their shows, and they were “stabbed in the street, arrested, and generally persecuted.”

The photographic school set up by Alam and those working with him, Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka is now widely recognised as one of the leading schools of photojournalism in the world, and many photographers who have studied there have become well-known, and its former students increasingly feature in the major international photojournalism competitions.

On my table downstairs, until now unopened, is the September issue of ‘New Internationalist‘ magazine – which I’ve subscribed to since its inception (and before it became ‘New’ in 1973, when it was the magazine of ‘Third World First, a student group now known as ‘People and Planet’) though I don’t always get around to reading every word – and I’m still reading the previous issue. It’s essential reading if you want to know what is really happening around the world – and why – and not just what Murdoch and his like want you to know. Over the years they have published a number of articles by Alam, including The Majority World looks back in 2007, as well as making use of images from Drik and Majority World, another of his initiatives.

The latest issue of the magazine has a double-page spread, ‘Telling our own stories‘, celebrating 25 years of Drik, which you can see and download from Alam’s post. I’m pleased to add my small voice to the congratulations.

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