In a city where life seems to follow a very banal cycle of work, eat, sleep, with the occasional entertainment thrown in, there are quite a few who have chosen to mock the prosaic system to opt for something which offers excitement a little out of the ordinary.
At an age when most people tilt towards spirituality, meditation, and sometimes reflection, Gulzar Hossain has decided to take up the task to present Bangladesh through his photography.
What is uplifting is that, about 10 years ago, Gulzar’s idea of photography was limited to fixed lens automatic cameras, used mostly to capture family functions.
Ten years later, he is driven by a mission: To capture Bangladesh outside the periphery of urban cacophony and the misery of poverty.
A small step leading to a resolution
Like many others who are on the wrong side of the 50s, Gulzar, at one point, faced what many call a late mid-life crisis. Having inherited property from his family, he was one of those privileged post-war youngsters who spent life in relative comfort, thanks to regular rent provided by tenants.
“When the band music scenario was at its infancy, in the mid-70s, we provided support to friends who wanted to pursue a career in music,” says the Bohemian gentleman-turned-photographer and added, “at that time, with the country’s economy still suffering from the ravages of the Liberation War, youngsters wanting to pursue creative professions were not given encouragement from the family.
“In the first decade after the war, most musicians, artists, and writers had to fight against the desires of their families to carry on with their passions.”
With a rather contrite smile, he also says that while he was always willing to help a social rebel with motivation and financial resources, he never felt the drive to do anything himself.
“Call me spoiled if you will, maybe the absence of the need to make a regular earning to survive prevented me from seriously making any effort.”
So why the passion with the camera all of a sudden?
“Well, the inspiration came from my younger brother who was a student at Pathshala. One day, while he was discussing the intricacies of photography, I developed an interest and that was the start.”
Literacy rate has gone up, mobile technology has revolutionized communication and commerce -- these are signs of a Bangladesh which has overcome countless impediments
The positive Bangladesh theme
What started out as a hobby to counter typical late 50s despondence has infused new life in this man. “I began by taking snaps around me: A crow sitting idly on the roof, or a cat ready to pounce on an unsuspecting victim, or a lonely elderly man in the next building gazing at the twilight,” said Hossain.
Then, one day, while watching the news, he came across an interview of a development worker who was underlining the spectacular natural beauty of Bangladesh when the interviewee repeatedly asked a question about unplanned urbanization and its claustrophobic impact on life.
“Listening to that line, I had an epiphany,” says the photographer. “At that moment I chose to take shots of everything that is positive and beautiful about Bangladesh.”
“Too many people have made the projection of suffering, poverty, and destitution their main themes to place our country to the world, I want to avoid that route,” states Gulzar, rather emphatically. He wants to go beyond the natural disasters, the child suffering from malnutrition, or the woman facing desolation due to prejudice.
While Bangladesh does have many challenges, there has been remarkable progress in all areas since independence; we are self-sufficient in food, maternal deaths have declined, literacy rate has gone up, mobile technology has revolutionized communication and commerce -- these are signs of a Bangladesh which has overcome countless impediments, disproving detractors.
Gulzar wants to project this transformed Bangladesh, along with the untainted rural beauty that can still mesmerize millions.
“Too many images of degradation/deprivation sent overseas have created a dismal stereotyped concept about Bangladesh which needs to be countered,” observes the photographer and underlines the need to showcase the natural enchantment of this country to the world in order to pull more international tourists.
A Bohemian in search of beauty
To snap the nature of Bangladesh, Hossain ventures out on a regular basis, going to the rural areas. For him, the thrill of capturing a spellbinding scene is matched by his desire for adventure.
“To look at it from a completely different angle, this rushing about has worked wonders for my health, keeping the blood sugar level well within a healthy limit,” says the photographer with a wink and a grin.
Hossain’s works have already been exhibited in Kolkata Bong Exhibition 2017, with more works to be presented on February 10 and 11 at Shantiniketan.
His tenacity and resolute commitment to present a dreamy, romantic Bangladesh earned plaudits at the recently concluded D’ Photo Café Monochrome Exhibition at the Shilpakala.
So, what is the next mission for this man who found his calling a little late in life?
“Well, since my mission is to showcase all things hopeful about Bangladesh, I want to create a series about young girls in Mymensingh who have formed a community to actively prevent underage marriage.”
The lesson to take from this unbridled enthusiasm: It’s never too late to listen to the creative urge in you.
To use a famous line from an advert: Just do it.
Towheed Feroze is a journalist working in the development sector.