In Support of Shahidul Alam

Aug 15, 2018

The International Center of Photography stands in support of Shahidul Alam, the world-renowned Bangladeshi photographer, educator, and activist who has recently been arrested, imprisoned, and allegedly tortured for criticism of his government. His fate is uncertain.

Alam’s pioneering work has largely been focused on supporting and amplifying the voices of photographers from the majority world. He is the founder of the Drik Picture Library photo agency and gallery in Dhaka, as well as of Bangladesh’s international photo festival, Chobi Mela. He also established the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, which has provided high-level educational training to photographers from Bangladesh and abroad, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers. In his frequent appearances at numerous conferences and on juries for photographic competitions throughout the world, the 63-year-old Alam has repeatedly pushed for a greater inclusiveness in media and for a more diverse array of perspectives.

After giving an interview on Al Jazeera critical of the government as it cracked down on thousands of students protesting deaths caused by the lack of enforcement of traffic regulations, as well as speaking on Facebook Live and publishing his own photos of the demonstrations, Alam was arrested and accused under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act. This Act targets anything that “prejudices the image of the state or a person,” essentially rendering criticism a crime.

The International Center of Photography, founded by Cornell Capa in 1974 on the principle of “concerned photography”—work that explores societal issues with an aim to correcting injustices—joins thousands of people and organizations worldwide who are supporting Alam, asking for his speedy and honorable release from prison. Shahidul Alam’s life’s work should be a cause for celebration, not punishment.

Fred Ritchin, Dean Emeritus/Scholar-in-Residence