Democracy is a messy, elusive entity. Keeping that entity alive is very important. The struggle for democracy is a struggle for freedom.
– Shahidul Alam
Shahidul Alam (born 1955) is a Bangladeshi Photographer, writer, curator and human rights activist. Alam founded the Drik Picture Library in 1989, the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka in 1998, “which has trained hundreds of photographers”, and the Chobi Mela International Photography Festival in 1999. His books include Nature’s Fury (2007) and My Journey as a Witness (2011).
He obtained a PhD in Chemistry from London University before taking up photography. Returning to his hometown Dhaka in 1984, he documented the democratic struggle to remove General Ershad. President of the Bangladesh Photographic Society for three terms, Alam set up the Drik agency; Bangladesh Photographic Institute; Chobi Mela festival; Majority World agency and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute. A new media pioneer, Alam introduced email to Bangladesh in the early 1990s.
His work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris and Tate Modern, London. He has been a guest curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London; Fotomuseum Wintherthur, Switzerland; National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Brussels Biennial and the Auckland Festival of Photography. His awards include the Shilpakala Padak, the highest cultural award given to Bangladeshi artists, a Lucie Award and the ICP Award. Time magazine named Alam as one of their ‘Persons of the Year’ in 2018.
Alam has written and edited several publications including My Journey as a Witness in 2011. His exhibition, Kalpana’s Warriors, was shown at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015 in Malta, and Best Years of my Life was shown at the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Berlin in 2017.
A speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, Alam has been a jury member for the Prix Pictet and World Press Photo, which he chaired. Alam is a visiting professor of Sunderland University and an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.