Archive for May, 2017

GMB Akash

Posted: May 17, 2017 in Interviews


GMB Akash is a legend in the art of photography. He has achieved more than 100 international awards and have been published in more than 100 international publications. Founder of First Light institute of photography with hundreds of students all over the world, describes himself in a very humble way in the following words,

“I am in an endless journey towards an infinite route, only to find a real world of humanity. This thirst is eternal. I will keep walking, touching every faces I drop through my lens. I will show the world – those unknown stories of sufferings. If a single hand comes to give them a shade that is the real honor of my sweat” 

In this interview I have tried to explore his personal and artistic vision.

  1. How would you describe yourself briefly (including your equipment and editing program)?

Photography is the light of my heart. With this light I see things differently, I discover people profoundly. In the journey of light, I go into the deep milieu of human existence. I am a light bearer who sees beauty in ugliness, strength in fragility, and love in the lost.

It’s been twenty years, I am working as a professional photographer. I am working and traveling almost 365 days a year. I have photography assignments to carry out, personal photography projects to continue. Besides,  I have a Photography institute (First Light Institute of Photography which has hundreds of aspiring photography students. After all my professional commitment I also have to give time to my 500 unprivileged children who are continuing education by my self-funding. There are ‘Survivors’ families whom I have to look after and also I am continually working for my upcoming book ‘Heroes of life’, it’s been nine years almost and I really hope by the end of this year I may complete the project and publish the book.

I do very little editing. I use lightroom. Canon Mark IV, Canon Mark III, lens 24-70mm, 16-35mm and 35 1.4 lens

  1. Describe your photographic odyssey. How it started and where do you see yourself now?

Coming from a background where there was little space for adopting a creative process created difficult circumstances for me. People around me had no idea about photojournalism. At that time parents supported you even if you wanted to be an artist, illustrator or an actor/singer. But ‘photojournalist’ did not exist in the circles I was brought up in. Many days I did not eat to save my pocket money for my photography. I used my tuition to buy films. Even some time when I had no film in my camera and had no money in pocket, I never stopped clicking. I kept clicking knowing I had no film inside my camera. Because I know I had to achieve my dream. The neighbour woman who was reputedly beaten by her husband everyday was my story, the gay who occasionally danced in a known prohibited lobby was my interest, girls under the red light were my canvas. During the last twenty years, every person I met had a story to tell. I pour out their soul and I continue to write the narrative of their life experiences. I try to write and capture the beauty of the people and their souls.

  1. How would you describe your artistic vision?

I love simplicity. Emotional connection is very important with that simplicity of my presentation. I do photography simply, I narrate simply. I want to connect the viewer naturally with my images and stories. The main challenge of my work is bringing emotion at its simplest form. With my images I want to tug your heart intensely, and doing that with simplicity is the most difficult task for me as an artist.

  1. Most of your work is based on underprivileged people. Is it a deliberate decision to focus of children of lesser God?

I try to capture the beauty of the people and their souls. Though the real circumstance of some of the people I portray may be quite grim; they are all strong individuals with remarkable characters. The power of these deprived people is that they express themselves effortlessly in front of my camera, they speak by pouring their hearts about their life events. They fearlessly speak truth. The way they sit, the way they look around or the way they express themselves are easier than I see in people living out of poverty. People living out of poverty are more concerned about their reputation, ego, and are more self-conscious. Although the circumstances of many of the people I portray may be grim, as individuals they are oftentimes 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 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 at the end 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.

  1. You have made a name at international level despite being a citizen of third world. How was your able to achieve this? Can you share your struggle and secrets of success?

It’s been a very difficult journey on my own. It is very hard to work in a developing country like Bangladesh as a freelance photographer. Surviving is a crucial issue. Most of the time crisis of work is the obstacle for developing the creativity and exploring ideas. Because of my dedication every single day of a year I am working. When a clients work with me, they always come back. I never compromise on honesty, and dedication is the rule I follow from my heart. I pour my heart and soul in the work I do. But nepotism in the industry remains one of the greatest barrier for artists like me all the time. I had to win my position after years of battle. I never had any god father in this industry, and coming from nowhere made me an alien and forced me to give my best without any break. I literally survived against all odds, against all conspiracy. I believed from my heart that if I remain true to my work then my work will remain true to me. Thanks to the social media, and the era of internet world, now artists do not have to go through channels of Broker to exhibit works. You can get work and appreciation for your creative work from every corner of the world. No one can lock your light. I have received hundred of photography awards, my works has been published in all major publications and my works exhibited in world’s best museums and galleries. Everything has been possible because of my hard work and love for photography. I have traveled more than fifty countries but most importantly thousands of nameless streets. I raised and made a position from nowhere land. The fight is beyond explanation. My inspiration is every face I met in my journey, music I heard in the road, seasons I loved pleasantly, struggled I overcome. Every sunrise is a new hope for me to live for another day, which gives me chance to shoot another day. I do not know where I am going but I know I am on my way.


  1. Where do you see contemporary Bangladeshi photographers compared to international scenario?

In a very promising position! Everyone is contributing from their own place, which is creating the different scenario for the industry itself. The volume of good work is recognized internationally. Photographers are winning international awards, bringing prestige to home. The more regarding is seeing the good work. I celebrate and applaud for the hard work of our photographers.


  1. What is the reason for your preference for colour pictures to black and white?

Fifteen years ago I was doing a story in the slums. Black and white was my premise till then. I took a picture of a young woman who was a garment worker. While I went to take the picture of her, she suddenly disappeared.  She showed up after a half an hour in her new clothes, lace in her hair and wearing a gold ear ring. Before I left her place she fervently requested to receive prints of the photos. The following week I made the print and showed up at her door. I put the prints in her hands with happiness. Within a second her face clouded and with a cold-sharp tone she said, ‘Am I only looking poor to you? Don’t you see your picture has nothing? I saved a year’s salary to buy that gold ear ring and where is it in your picture? Where is my floral red dress? And my yellow hair ribbon? Your picture is lying’. That one sentence changed my perspectives, my techniques, my images and my reality.

  1. From whom you have been most impressed in photography? Do you still keep learning from the work of masters or do you feel they hinder and blunt your innate personal vision?

I very much admire Sebastiao Salgado. His work is a rich resource of inspiration. James Natchway is also one of the most inspiring photographers as well as an influential person for me. All of his work inspires me. This photographer evokes the wars of the world but delivers the message of peace. I also love works of Steve Mccurry, he is a master. I love to see works of photographers from different corner of the world. I feel inspired, motivated. Every person has his/her very own eye. We can only get inspiration, no one can blunt our innate personal vision, that I very much believe.


  1. Do you feel photography influences one’s personality as literature and other genres of art do? How it has changed your own personality and world view.

Photography changed my life. Because of photography I travel intensely that helped me to meet with some incredible humans from different cultures and backgrounds. Their life experiences changed views on life. I have learned that simplicity is the key of life. I have learned that the most beautiful souls are often most broken. I live a very simple life. I never can eat in pricey places or stay in luxury hotels. I know how valuable ten taka is for a child laborer, how much value one toy can add in a deprived child’s life. Because of Photography I am aware that we need very little to change someone’s life and bring happiness. Photography influences me to write down all the life experiences I encountered. Emotionally I become more involved with people I do not even know, because my experiences taught me empathy. I can see my reincarnation because of Photography.


  1. Your main focus has been your own culture and people rather than going around and capture different civilizations. How do you explain it this choice?

I have worked in more than 50 countries so far. I have had several projects from all around the world. Even last year I worked on refugee children. But my heart always returns to my country and I continue to work more. When I shoot, I always ask two questions to myself: why am I taking this photo? And what message do I want to convey? Above all, photography is my passion and then it is a tool to affect positive change. I shoot almost every day because I love to do it. I do not see photography as competition, nor do I thrive for status or reputation. I want to show my pictures to my audiences. I have seen many of my colleagues who hardly share their photographs and keep them all for competitions, grants, or exhibitions.  I am very clear about the fact that I take photographs to show people, to convey a message, and to make a change. Until I can spread my message, until I share stories of broken hearts, until I show how brave my subjects are, I do not bother with anything else. Whenever I am in the city strangers are stopping me. Uncountable number of people recognize me in the street and express how my photographs have changed their view. I believe that if my photographs can connect with the heart, can influence people to take a step for humanity then this is the ultimate achievement.

  1. What is your photography routine? How much time you spend in it and how you are able to manage it? Do you work randomly or in planned way with a project in mind?

I have an un-resting soul. I do not know where I will be waking up next morning. I move from places to places, cities to cities and countries to countries. I see how different seasons are in the different parts of the world. Taste of food and faces of people all are different, but at the end, every human soul resembles the same. The grandmother of a Skalasikasikamia smiles to me same as one in Ketrokona. This fascinates me most. I keep specific period of time for my personal projects. It’s very difficult to manage dates for my assignments, most of the time I am booked many months ahead. I could not attend my two exhibitions in America and Europe due to the schedule. Whatever time I can manage I like to spend helping the people I photographed. I am very strict about my personal shooting period, I work on my projects and never compromise that time with any commercial work. Like I said, every single day I am traveling, taking pictures. I am trying to bring change with my images and stories and introducing incredible humans to the world.

  1. What do you think are the benefits of social media in promotion of today’s artist? There is a frequent complaint that most of the celebrities are not personally present on media. Their publicity managers keep them alive on social media. How you can manage so much time on social media?

Social media is very important. That is where you can get genuine reaction of your audience. My aim is always to show my images. I never like to keep my projects or works for submitting in competition or exhibitions. Because of social media or simply for internet artists do not need to go through brokers to exhibit their works. My journey was not only about achieving my dream; bringing fame for my country or helping unprivileged, it was also giving a constant fight against corruption and nepotism. I brought 100 prestigious awards to my country, I gave away most of my earning for the people I photographed, and my exhibitions have been held in world’s renowned places, every day I am giving interview to the media, all the time my work is in the news. But sadly, I have been criticized by the broker of my country’s photography industry all the time. They always wanted to remove me from this industry. But I did not give up, and the love and respect from the people from all over the country helped me to motivate.  ‘I got your name in the 30 world famous documentary photographer’, ‘Your stories are souls of your pictures’, ‘You are Picasso of storytelling’, ‘Because of your image I bought all the roses from the signal girl’, every day I am receiving hundreds of heart moving messages, these all are my inspiration. My Facebook page, Facebook account, photography groups, school social sites, Instagram, LinkedIn, blog, archives all of my social and commercial sites are entirely managed by me. It required a lot of effort from my side. But I am always ready to give more than my 100%.

  1. Do you think photography can help promote tolerance and human value in our lives? Do you feel you have been able to make a difference with your work?

A good photograph will have a lasting impression on you. One of a kind of photograph has the ability to make you feel. It can make you cry, compel you to laugh or it will give you a feeling to look back again and again. A good photograph is universal; it will tug heart beyond borders. There are picture when you will see it, you will never be able to forget eternity. And thus a photograph can create value in our lives simply provoking humans living inside us. Every image can make a difference. I have heard this comment over and over again, ‘Your photograph changed my life’, more than thousands times I have heard it and that is why I am sure, every good image has a lasting impression on us. It can help us to grow, to think, to dream. I portray image and story of remarkable characters, unbeatable souls. Audience takes so many things from those views. Also I continue to contribute in the life of the people I photograph. I continue to connect from soul to soul.

14. What are your future plans in photography?

Every single second of my life I am living in photography. I do not have any life outside photography. Even when I am not taking picture, I am seeing picture. I am thinking about photography all the time. Every year I have to attend several solo exhibitions abroad, I am committed to my clients as well and dates are given for next six months. I also have to take photography workshop in my Photography Institute ‘First Light’, there is One on One Photography program, and participants come from all over world to attend workshop with me in Bangladesh. Every day I have a plan and I have to work on it. But now at this moment my bigger plan is publishing my nine years project ‘Heroes of Life’ in a form of book which will have real life stories and images. I am also building a school for unprivileged children. I would like to change the life of every single person who will be portrayed in the book ‘Heroes of life’.

15. Any other lesson/advice you would like to give to an aspiring photographer

The moment you start doing photography only for yourself, you will get the best reward for your life. You will be no more alone. With time you will start to enjoy little moments of your life on your own. One day photography will become your loyal companion, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you love. That is how photography will become your existence; this is how Photography gives meaning to your life.

16. Lastly, describe yourself as a person. Your likes, dislikes, ambitions and failures in your life.

I always believe to do what my heart want. Because I can go thousands of miles, can go far from the world but I can never escape from your heart. I feel, I am a navigator more than a traveler. Every day I discover a new region within my soul and thus I want to bring life to every image I take.

GMB Akash