In Khokon's photography book Shada Kalo (Black and white), the international award winning photo-journalist captures the reflections from childhood. As the name implies, Khokon's work is in black and white.
Abu Taher Khokon has worked in many different newspapers in Bangladesh since 1986. He was staff photo journalist at the Daily New Nation from 1986 to 1995. He was then chief staff photographer at the Morning Sun for about five years. He was also the chief photo journalist at New Age from 2003 to 2010.
“There are innumerable children in this country whose lives are colourless and engulfed in darkness. In other words, they are black and white. These poverty stricken children do not see the glistening colours of life as we see them. Their journey through life is filled with tribulations,” Khokon described the philosophy behind the work in his book.
The book showcases 65 brilliantly captured images. The photos are often bleak and harrowing. Themes explored include childhood, laughter, playing, labour, heat of summer, drought, winter, flood, unnatural deaths, solidarity, drugs, uprising, education and patriotism.
The launching ceremony for the book was held in New York September 30 this year. The founder of Joyeeta Publication and renowned photo journalist Yasin Kabir Joy chaired the event. The programme was achored by journalist Akbar Haidar Kiron. The editor of Shada Kalo Nizam Chowdhury, the editor-in-chief of Weekly Thikana Muhammad Fazlur Rahman, editor of Weekly Ajkal Manjur Ahmed and CEO of Times TV Abu Taher spoke at the event.
Khokon delivered the welcoming speech at the event. Senior journalist Kazi Mintu spoke on blcak and white photography. One of the main convener of the programme was popular expat photo journalist Nihar Siddiki.
The 65 photos in the book are categorized under 14 categories. The first photo from the “childhood” series embodies the picture of underprivileged, repressed, and poverty stricken children. They too have the aspirations. But they live with uncertainty.
Khokon's vision is optimistic despite the grim overtone in his work. He likes to capture laughter a lot. The photo of poor children playing cricket on a big garbage dumping ground is jubilant from the universal mirthful excitement of children. But at the same time there is a surrealistic aura in it, particularly because of the hoards of kites in the background. Khokon does not shy away from capturing that too.
But sometimes it's not possible to be optimistic. The photos of landslide victims are hard to look at. They are as agonizing as they are real. Hope is also difficult to find in the life and death struggle during floods and bone shuddering winter under the open sky.
Khokon has a special eye for finding union between people and animals. His photos capturing dogs finding shelter with humans and monkeys taking refuge on the shoulder of a man during flood is mesmerizing.
The “narcotics” category shows the devastating pictures of street children sniffing drugs en masse. Khokon also captured how children are used and abused by state and political powers.
The last photo of the book again snaps a little girl smiling, apparently oblivious to her hapless state and lack of material possessions. Despite its focus on children, the book is an anthology of Bangladesh and the realities of the country. The tonality of the photography imprints a melancholic impression on the viewers.