caught my eye. It was for a camera made by an international
company. 'Buy this camera, click, and become a photographer
in an instant!' Such a provocative ad., that you itch to become
a photo-grapher. But for working photographers, the groundwork
of their professional lives isn't so easy to create - even
when the inter-
national camera companies seem to have the answer.
Taking pictures for a living is not new. It is intricately
tied up with our colonial history. Visual products of our
region, over the last
few hundred years, have seen enormous changes from the overt
influence of Europe. Among them, photography is a modern medium.
It also played a defined role in the colonial structure of
governance. It was impor-tant for the colonial administration
to develop various archives. And photography became a valuable
tool for documenting the colonised peoples. Through these
links, in the modern post-colonial state, a photograph is
a nece-ssity for many reasons, mostly for official purposes
- and therefore studio photography has an established niche
of its own, in various measures and possibilities. But how
are those images being used, and what is the status of a photographer
in society? These are issues that demand more than a passing
glance. To this day in Bangladesh, despite constant reminding,
in newspapers are loathe to credit photographers. Even now,
photojournalists are few in number, and those working in newspapers
find their work receiving less importance and less pay as
a matter of course. This state of affairs is hardly reflected
in the progress of film-camera manufacturing multinational
companies. They're building on ever stronger foundations,
even in Bangladesh. And the photo printing establishments
are also busy, with a lot of work at hand. Therefore it appears
that photography is ever increasing in popularity. The reasons
for this are embedded deep in the middle class world, and
there are also clear-cut boundaries for what should be photographed.
But that is another discussion altogether. Thousands of photographs
are being taken, but people somehow aren't picking up on the
importance of photographers. And that is a major paradox.
why Pathshala's founding is so crucial. There are many reasons
for it. The first one is easy. There are only a few places
where photography is taught in Bangladesh, and through Pathshala
that need has been slightly lessened. In particular, the three-year
graduation programme is offering students a tidy, complete,
formal education package. Even as universities in Bangladesh
have facilities to teach fine arts, within it there
are no courses in photography. Secondly, not only photography,
but photojournalism is taught at Pathshala. And it is completely
independent from all other educational ins-titutions. It is
astonishing that even when formal education in journalism is
well estab-lished, photojournalism studies are marginal in traditional
universities. Recently, some development agencies have started
showing interest in the media, and courses in photography and
journalism have arised from their involvement. But this by no
means lessens Pathshala's significance, and only adds to it
- which leads us to the third reason. Pathshala encourages its
students to see beyond the camera's frame. When the photo-graphers'
vision carries more depth than what their cameras see, the photographers
control the camera - following the 'eyes' they have worked on
discovering. In short, the core aspect of Pathshala's education
programme is training students' ability to see - creating such
an environment where photographers will look beyond the obvious.
And the photographs bear testament to this.
year, Drik's calendar has been made with the work of students
from its educational wing, Pathshala. Work of those who are
curr-ently enrolled in the final year of the grad-uation programme,
who were among the first students of Pathshala. They are working
to discover social relationships, are endlessly curious - these
are feelings that arise from studying these visuals, these images.
It is a major challenge for the photographer to attain these
abilities. And these images are also a
selection from ongoing work. 'Young man, what do you see?' Dronacharja
once threw this question towards his archery students. Only
Arjuna had replied, 'The bird's eye'. The rest, as we all know,
could only see the green canopy of forests ahead. Focusing on
the target is extremely important for an archer, and a photographer
is by no means an archer.
There is of course much difference between clicking the shutter
and pulling the trigger. The story simply refers to the ability
of seeing. Photographers can only capture what they see before
them. But what are the impli-cations of their seeing, their
ability to see? That is much, much more important a ques-tion
than how to take a sharp picture. These photographers, Pathshala's
students, again remind us - the images' readers - of where to
look. Thus they instruct our vision.