“There is great pleasure in meeting people who are despised by the world, in sharing a cup of tea with them, and discovering that they are still capable of affection, though they themselves go unloved.”
G.M.B. Akash (born in 1977) is an award-winning international photojournalist and documentary photograph. He lives in Bangladesh. Akash graduated from “Ateneo De Manila University” with a degree in Multimedia Journalism.
As a photographer, G.M.B. Akash is very interested in social issues and the life of underprivileged people. G.M.B. Akash does not only limit his work to document suffering and injustice, he makes an effort trying to improve the situations of the people he photographs through a project called “Survivors”.
The pictures of G.M.B. Akash have been exhibited around the world and have been published in magazines like National Geographic, The Sunday Times, GEO, Stern, Der Spiegel, The Guardian or Vogue.
Photo-Essay: “Life For Rent”
“The area of Kandaportte Potitalow is home to 1500 prostitutes and their families. This place is all they know and it has its own micro infrastructure of grocery stores, tea houses, hairdressers, and doctors. The women themselves only know this other world through the men who come here; they know rickshaw pullers, truckers, businessmen, policemen and priests.”
Interview with G.M.B. Akash
G.M.B., what was your first camera and photographic experience?
In my surroundings and the place where I was brought up, no one ever thought that a little boy could grow up to devote himself to photography. Throughout my childhood, I didn’t have access to photographers, their work, or even a camera. Photography didn’t exist for me neither in theory nor in practice. I grabbed the old camera of my father and started taking pictures unconsciously in 1997. Till then, I haven’t spent a single day without taking pictures.
Why did you become a photographer?
These days, I’m working as a multimedia journalist represented by Panos Pictures. I’m taking images and also work on video documentaries.
The best part about being a photographer is that I’m able to articulate the experiences of the voiceless and to bring their identities to the forefront which gives meaning and purpose to my own life. Many things frustrate me, while covering hunger, poverty or child labor. My own personal feelings drive me insane sometimes, which I hardly can overcome. I feel all the time they are hunting me, their feelings cry inside myself. Just a simple example: I cannot eat good food or cannot spend much in a luxury food/comfort place. I feel they are looking at me. This is a very personal example of my day-to-day life.
What does photography mean to you?
To underline our lives, our awareness, I persist to treasure and poke the spinal chord of the world, by transforming suffering into photographs. For me, photography is my language to access, to communicate, to identify and mostly to make injustice and suffering to be heard. I breathe photography. Without photography, I have no existence. Through photography I only jot down my heart’s language.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Steve McCurry and James Nachtwey.
And many, many more who are asking the world to wake up everyday. I spend time on watching fellow photographer’s work which elevate me in own my work, too.
“What is important to my work is the individual picture. I photograph stories on assignment, and of course they have to be put together coherently. But what matters most is that each picture stands on its own, with its own place and feeling.”
G.M.B. Akash. what’s your favorite photography quote?
There is an inspiring quote which has led me to fulfill my journey with my book and project Survivors. The quote is:
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
How would you describe your photographic style and way of working?
Personally, I’m a perfectionist. Unless I could capture the feelings of the photographed person with my camera, the photograph itself seems meaningless to me. For me the main challenge is to establish the deepest meaning of the photograph to the viewer’s heart. It takes a long time. I wait for the right moment. I go to places over and over again. I spend hours and hours waiting for the right moment. Surprisingly, while I am waiting for something to happen, I get several shots that I hadn’t expected beforehand.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
For documentary works on a specific subject or issue, I keep covering the project over many years. It’s more systematic. It’s been ten years, for example, that I’ve been working on Survivors. I knew that I had to reach the point when I could exclusively display this body of work in order to assure the better conditions of a certain group of people. And now after ten years, I finally complete a part of my project and finally by with the publication of the book, I’m able to finalize it.
In case of street photography, I basically pick the moment. It’s spontaneous and sudden. In this case it’s about putting me in the right position at the right time. My rule is to approach what is happening around me with my camera. By consistently repeating everyday what has come to my way. It’s all about looking around, discovering the invisible, and cultivating enthusiasm to create a series of work which is out of the box. Be unique. Be a master.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Having a good heart with honesty is essential to me. Sometime you have to act as a secret agent, sometimes you are alone, and so on. To become a good photographer, talent is not the only thing you need. You also have to have the ability to face anything and everything that comes your way by just holding a camera.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
An image which can contribute magic! A photo which lights the heart and mind.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
It can be anything which most of us overlook. I have a particular affection for photographing special things which are an inspiration to me, which need to be brought to a broader audience’s attention to make them start thinking. What I find most amazing about the work I do is that it opens my eyes to all these little pleasures of life. There is great pleasure in meeting people who are despised by the world, in sharing a cup of tea with them, and discovering that they are still capable of affection, though they themselves go unloved.
This is not a work about pursuing art, and opening people’s eyes. That is the responsibility of every photographer. My work gets inspiration from their incredible smile, their extraordinary ability to overcome difficulties and their flamboyant humanity. The colorless life they are living with all colors inside and outside of them by inspiring us continually to live another day with little more than just a fleeting smile. I strive to make an effort through photography to change the world, for how little it may be, trying to find the way of love and peace.
“I strive to make an effort through photography to change the world, for how little it may be, trying to find the way of love and peace.”
How do you keep up to date with new developments in photography, to keep on learning new things?
I’m a very old-fashioned person. In spite of surfing the internet I prefer to buy photography books wherever I go. I can understand this generation of Ipads, Ipods and Apps – though it’s not something I can identify with personally. Yes, I do forgive those of you laughing at my ancient self now, but there’s other things that fill me with pleasure. I love books, prints and music. The boarding passes also have their shelter in many of my photography books! I revisit sites of my favorite photographers. And travelling keeps me up to date. Travelling has giving me the chance to understand the depth of life. These are all elements that help me to update myself and keep on learning.
Digital or analog?
Of course digital! It’s easy, time-saving, and less expensive. I don’t have to wait to go to a good laboratory each time. Especially here in Bangladesh working with film doesn’t guarantee you good quality results.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Canon 5d Mark II and 24-70 mm, 24 mm, and 35 mm lenses.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Click, click – keep clicking, until your thirst becomes eternal. Photography is a mean of existence. Try to live with it with your own ability. Make your own trails. When as a photographer you will be able to discover yourself in your photography, then you will be able to get an unending tribute for the rest of your life. If you remain true to your work, then your work will remain true to you.