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9 questions with this year's Samdani Art Award winner

  • Published at 10:19 am February 18th, 2016
9 questions with this year's Samdani Art Award winner

Out of 300 applicants and 13 finalists at this year's Samdani Art Award, Rasel Chowdhury stole the show with his "Railway Longings" series.

Recently appointed as a contract photographer by the New York Times and Getty Images, the documentary photographer is also one of the seven founding members of the newly formed photographers' foundation called Daagi Art Garage.

Out of his published projects, there's "Desperate Urbanisation," which depicts the story of the Ganges and "Before the End" that shows a series of photos of the abandoned Panam Nagar in Sonargaon. His other project titled "Railway Longings" was featured in the exhibition at this year's Samdani Art Award that tells the story of the changing landscapes along the railways and stations intertwined from Jamalpur to Mymensingh to Dhaka. This nostalgic series of brilliant photographs secured him the title of Samdani Art Award winner this year.

How did you stumble upon this journey of yours?

I have always done photography but it was in 2008 when I decided to take it up as a profession.

How, do you think, your work has evolved over the years?

When I got admitted in Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in 2008, I dreamt of being popular and wanted to follow the footsteps of the most distinguished photographers of the country and take photos like them - black and white with a hard contrast.

But over the years, my mentors at Pathshala introduced me to different other types of images, urging us to be more experimental. Which made me change my mind about doing anything mainstream and pursue experimental themes.

Best advice you have ever gotten?

It was from my father. He always told me that it's more important to be a good human being than being a good photographer or a student.

Out of all the projects you've worked on, which is your most favourite one?

A series that I worked on called "Desperate Urbanisation." I think I was really able to express myself through this project.

Why photography?

Because I am not good at anything else.

What roles, in your opinion, do artists play in the society?

I think most artists enjoy expressing themselves through their artwork - what they are, how they feel, etc. But how that will be deciphered among his/her audience is entirely up to them.

I think every artist is responsible to represent, showcase, write or talk about what's happening in the world around us, depending on their line of work. The audience will decide what to make out of it.

How does it feel to have won the Samdani Art Award?

I still didn't get a chance to catch my breath. I was announced the winner five days ago, and it has been a roller-coaster ride since then. Being interviewed, being greeted by and meeting with big photographers, or even fans. I'm still shocked.

Did you see it coming?

No I didn't. Two of my close friends entered the competition as well, and I was almost certain that one of them will win. I was taken by surprise when they announced my name.

What other projects are there in the pipeline? I have done a series in Nepal, after the earthquake that I haven't published yet. But hope to in the coming future.