The photographer, curator and founder of Drik Photo Agency and the Chobi Mela, Shahidul Alam has been imprisoned in Bangladesh for speaking out about the recent protests by young people and about the corruption of the regime. In 1989 he showed When the Waters Came at Side Gallery as part of its NOW series of exhibitions. In 2008 we showed Bangladesh 1971: Photographs from the War of Independence, the powerful exhibition he curated for our good friends Autograph, down in London. Over the years he has been a good friend to Side and to the North East of England – he has worked extensively with North East Photography Network and is currently a visiting professor in photography at Sunderland University.
The 1988 floods were the worst in the Bangladesh’s’s history. Alam documented them on assignment from CONCERN, CARE (USA) and MCC (Mennonites Central Committee). Some show the flood at its worst, some the distribution camps set up in the Mymensingh district, and others the after-effect of the floods in Tangail. There were positive aspects to the flood too. For example, local school children set up a distribution camp entirely on their own initiative, baking bread themselves. Sufi, an orphan girl who would have been left out of the distribution list (wheat was only being given to parents in that particular camp) was temporarily adopted by a mother. These photographs are not so much of a flood as of an unfortunate but proud people with a stubborn will to survive.
All images © Shahidul Alam