Tuesday, June 25, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Beyond the lenses

Update : 18 Feb 2016, 10:52 AM

Gazi Nafis Ahmed is a Dhaka-based photographer whose project “Inner Face 2009-2015” was shortlisted for the “Samdani Art Award 2016.” Ahmed is known for his illustrious work with drug addicts and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community who are often overlooked by the society.

It is said that your artistic practice deals with complicated memories from your childhood. Could you elaborate on that a bit?

As a child, growing up within an overly protective and secured lifestyle, I have always felt the urge to go beyond the comfort zone that I was made accustomed to. When I talk about complicated childhood memories, it relates to “Ashura,” a chapter from the “Puran Dhaka” series. I am interested in a practice that lets me study my own sentiments and experiences. Each time, it is a euphoric journey that helps me concentrate and deal with problems that interest me.

What encouraged you to pursue photography?

Since childhood, I was always familiar seeing artists, singers, intellects, novelists and the likes around me all the time. The influence of music and art took place from the very beginning. I would often find myself sitting in one corner – drawing and colouring. Using the camera that was shared by all the members in my family, I used to take photos in private family events.

As a matter of fact, art was always my favourite subject. Studying Art and Design at the Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design at the London Guildhall University, I was also introduced to another art form, photography. A form that I instantly knew was my own. Later, I moved to Denmark to pursue my undergrad in Documentary Photography.

From 2012 to 2014, I worked with VII, a renowned American-based photojournalism agency. I wanted to understand the concept of photojournalism. However, I never considered myself a photojournalist. I just can’t relate to photojournalism. I find it claustrophobic and suffocating.

Your work is quite thought-provoking and may strike people as controversial. How do you deal with negative reactions?

It is a universal theme that I am working on and the identities of these individuals are innate by nature. I have received both sides of the reactions and I must say that the majority of them were positive.

My work was really appreciated nationally and internationally and has been exhibited around the world. I received Format International Photography Festival Blurb Award at United Kingdom in 2013 as well as the prestigious International Pride Photo Award in Amsterdam.

These artworks give the opportunity to enrich the lives of the ones who encounter them. My work involves a participatory process, where I ask my participants to provide me with a drawing or writing they did themselves. I simply give them an art paper and ask them to draw something, anything, which I use as installations. This engagement gives them a sense of involvement.

After my exhibitions, many of the participants in the “Inner Face” project received job opportunities. The communities started to have more confidence and be more vocal.

Inner Face 2009-2014, a series based on the collective denial about sexual diversity will be presented at “The Samdani Art Award” exhibition. How do you think your work will help lend a voice to the individuals who are most in need to express themselves?

“Inner Face” is an eight-year long project which started in 2009 and commencing till date. It will be the third time that works from these series will be showcased at The “Samdani Art Award.”

My work plays roles on different levels.

As much as it is consumed for the beauty, the sublime and aesthetic nature, they also communicate persuasive messages and draw people’s attention to critical issues. It challenges “collective norms.”









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