If you look at the map on photographer Shahidul Alam’s Web site, Bangladesh is a sea of yellow pinpricks — each virtual thumb tack pointing to a killing by the Rapid Action Battalion, a security force formed in 2004 to fight corruption in the South Asian nation.
The ruthless guardians of the nation stand accused by human rights groups of the torture and extra-judicial slayings of their fellow citizens.
Alam, a brilliant photographer and passionate defender of human rights, focused his heart and his camera on the state-sanctioned terror; on all the people allegedly caught in the “crossfire.”
In a collection of photographs catalogued as “Crossfire,” he shows us the hospital corridor, the rice paddy, the city wall, the rickshaw stand — all the places where they happened.
In his own words:
“The intention of this exhibit, was therefore not to present documentary evidence. There was plenty of that around and it had failed. The show attempts to reach out at an emotional level. I aim to get under the skin. To walk those cold streets. To hear the cries, see terror in the eyes. To sit quietly with the family besides a cold corpse. But every photograph is based on in-depth research. On actual case studies. On verifiable facts. A fragment of the story has been used to suggest the whole. A quiet metaphor for the screaming truth.”
Bangladeshi police prevented the public from viewing “Crossfire” by blocking the entrance to Drik Gallery in Dhaka. But Drik won its case in court and people can once again freely view Alam’s important work. It’s vital that people see through Alam’s lens. it’s vital for Bangladeshi democracy,
Check out Alam’s work on the New York Times site:
And thanks to my friend John Trotter (another brilliant photographer) for bringing the court ruling to my attention.