‘Survivors’ Part II
“My photo book ‘Survivors’ is not only important presentation of my 10 years works. It is significant to me in many ways. Surviving in a poor country — facing adversity daily — is akin to a lifetime of tragedy. So in a number of ways, the images presented on these pages are my own experiences, too. My journeys connect me to the many characters. Sometimes I had to run, take a ride on the roof of a moving train, sleep on a flooded floor and spend many hours walking the maze of avenues through sprawling city slums. It is the reaching of my protagonists, the welcome into their homes and their lives, that makes my work worthwhile.
And if mine is the hand that blocks the scorching sun from their eyes — bringing shade for just a single minute, then there’s value in the work I do. I am touched that people started valuing my small step. Yes, one never can complete one’s quest for serving for humanity but I am trying. While photography is a big task but beside it is my willingness to serve these people whom I photograph which is more challenging.
I am gifting business/source of income to each family I am able to give from my book ‘Survivors’. Finding people from the book whom I captured 5-10 years ago, talking/sharing ideas with them, finding the right business, even in some cases doing the business myself for few days, educating them, monitoring them become toughest than photography. But I believe, every amazing achievement starts with an impossibility. Now after seeing these happy families of Survivors, I realize, when many little people in many small places do many small things, they can change the face of the world” – GMB Akash
Over the course of the last decade, I have built a collection of photographs depicting the wise, resigned, sad and sometimes bewildered faces of children, sex workers, climate change survivors and many others who share the “struggle” day-in and day-out. And although the circumstances of many of the people I portray may be grim, as individual they are people of remarkable character. And it is the beauty of such people and the human soul that remains when nearly all else is gone. This beauty I strive to capture in the photographs I take.
This post is tribute to those ‘Survivors’ who sifted their life with my small gift and make a bench mark to rest of the people by becoming example to their community or locality.
Sajib – a child labourer is busy with his immense workload. These children are deprived from almost all human rights, dedicating the entire childhood towards supporting their families in need. Heavy workloads, prone towards injuries and discrimination are common to them all.
I took picture of Sajib in an aluminum pot factory four years ago. Sajib’s (14) mother Salma Begum’s (35) working life started when she was 15 years old. 10 taka (1 USD =80 Taka) was her first salary. She has one daughter and only one son Sajib. She might never send Sajib to work in silver factory if her income can generate three times food for her two children. She came to her slum 26 years ago. She earns 500 taka per week as well Sajib earns 400 taka per week. They have to pay 1400 tk rent of only one room in which she, her husband sleeps along their children.
Her husband has affairs with other ladies and spends his whole income either for women or for addiction. She cannot let him go as he is her children’s father. Her daughter is very good student. She always do top in the class. But Sajib or Salma Begum no one can give her fees, books, dairy or even Tiffin. Sajib sometime manages to do overtime and gives his extra salary to his sister to continue her education. I spotted Sajib and get a picture of him three years ago in silver cooking factory when he was 11 years old.
Through the ‘Survivors’ project I find him out and get the insight of his family. I understand Salma Begum is one who can help the situation, if I lend my hand to her by project ‘Survivors’. She has previous experience of selling bed sheet and she earns enough that time. She was just an employee of a Khala (aunt) who has the capital. She saw khala earns 200-300 taka daily while she sells everything. But end of the day she got 50 taka as her labor cost. She leaves the job as she has no capital and the income was low. Now she wants to do that business again by the assistance of expertise of one of her sister. She wants to sell Kamiz (women dress) and Shari to door to door and later in a shop. The only thing is she needs capital. I trusted on her idea and let her do the business and go to buy clothes with her. Her plan was she will buy cloths with her full capital then with the selling profit she will buy more and again move for selling.
Her planned worked. She got good customer in her locality and other areas who willingly buy cloths seating at home. She do profit less, sells more thus she gains customer loyalty and this uneducated lady now is a successful seller. It’s been nearly year she is doing her business and her son Sajib is helping her. She sends Sajib to Brac School but he could not able to read or write and feels shame to do study with juniors. Salma Begum decided to involve Sajib more in her business and admit him in a technical school beyond conventional. She bought furniture for her small house and her only daughter now goes to teacher for private tuitions.
She is more than happy with the fact that still woman like her is capable to earn a dream with dignity. And my happiness? Seeing this family, I feel simply proud.
31 year old Hashmoth lost half of his face in a tiger attack in 1995. The attack was on his first day out fishing. He was sleeping in the boat when the tiger attacked. Though he survived it, the damage to his face was such that no one from his village would come near him. His parents forced a girl to marry him. At the initial days of his marital life, he would not allow his wife to look at him. The region is home to approximately 500 Bengal tigers, one of the largest single populations of tigers in one area. These tigers are well-known for the substantial number of people they kill; estimates range from 50-250 people per year. Satkhira, Bangladesh
By the project “survivors” I planned to help him. I ask them what business will be easy to do for them or what income source can be easily maintain by Hashmoth. He & his wife came to a decision that they will sell fish in market. For this purpose they need capital. I go to their near market with them, saw Hashmoth’s capability of selling fish by a trial. Then we went with Hashmoth to see how difficult fish business for him is. As my method of helping is not giving money in hand, so I assign a volunteer who will assist them to do business in first one month. Already I visited twice but still the place is far from the city, so I keep my faith alive that they will overcome all obstacles.
And they did. Along help of her brave wife Hasmoth is selling fish in the market and spends his profit for daily expenditure of their family. His wife manages to save little from their profit. Hashmoth goes to sell fishes at early morning and at evening. Rest of the time either he takes rest. Thus Hashmoth is able to stop himself from begging door to door and become a real survivor in the race of life.
“Several times I have been severely broken heart, injured or illnesses have torn me down. Nevertheless I continue working because of my strong belief that my pictures can make a difference. I learn, the wound of today is the power of tomorrow. And ‘Survivors’ proved me that no matter what happens in life still life is precious, each moment deserves celebration
“I was searching for ‘Survivors’ to help their families. It was a long journey to find each and every face after ten years later.”
A quote of Helen Keller is a big inspiration for me in this journey which I want to share with you all:
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
– GMB Akash’