How People Live

Photographer Munem Wasif on Old Dhaka and building visual narratives.

Written by Swetha Ramakrishnan | Published:October 4, 2013 4:36 am

It’s hard to miss Munem Wasif’s intense demeanour at the Delhi Photo Festival. He was here for a workshop and to launch his photo-book Bangladesh,Standing On The Edge. His uncle was a student of geography who travelled and photographed often and brought prints home. Wasif was soon hooked and would wander around with a camera,building stories.

Wasif lived in Old Dhaka for many years. It reminds him of Old Delhi,with its strong sense of neighbourhood,food and culture. “I would walk into people’s homes to see how people lived and how the city was transforming,” he says. His first exhibition in Dhaka,titled “Blood Splinter of Jute”was on the lives of jute mill workers in Bangladesh,and was exhibited at the Chobimela Photo Festival in 2001. He exhibited his work on Shakri Bazaar,Old Dhaka streets so that the 40,000 people who lived there could have access to them.

“For me the city is not a space,it’s a place where you can see human moments,which is missing in new,big cities. People are running so fast that they don’t have time to stand on the street,have a cup of chai and talk with friends. I miss that part of the town and that is what my book is about,”says Wasif. In two exhibitions,both works in progress,there are his observations on Islam and the water troubles in rural Bangladesh. The latter has also been published as a photo-book with help of the Swiss-French Prix Prictet Grant.

Wasif mostly lives out of a suitcase with a show in Paris,a book launch in Camodia and an exhibition in a festival in China. He can’t stop talking about his love for black-and-white photography. “In God We Trust”,his exhibition on Islam,has been ongoing for several years now. He has photographed people,including members of his family,who practice Islam differently. “I like photographs which have a strong emotional ground. I build narratives,in an intuitive way,rather than build logical constructions,”he says.

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