PROPAGANDA-Reportage

I grew up around newspapermen, when every household subscribed to a newspaper. Newspapermen included staff photographers.

Like Bill John. Bill was a working man, in grubby casuals with the stereotypical shooting vest made entirely of pockets. He did black and white shots to illustrate a story. He was cynical, smoked cigarettes, drank his pay. He had no pretension to art. He knew about subjectivity - his, the writer's, the editor's. But he was a journalist in a forgotten age when journalists made an effort to stick to the facts. So he made sure to record the facts even as he commented on them.

Like Bill, I'm out to capture facts. Yes, I know my choices are dictated by my history, my beliefs, my culture, my mood of the moment. So it's reportage from a point of view. But it is still reportage.

DHAKA PEOPLE, an album: 265 portraits: families, beggars, the obscenely rich, the very poor, rickshaw wallahs, children, patriarchs and matriarchs, all hoping that tomorrow will be better than today.

CONTEXT: No photographs can tell you how Dhakaites live: you have to hear the traffic honking, belling, revving, idling, crashing; the crowds shouting, the beggars knocking at windows murmuring "Allah, Allah" or shouting "Madame" or "Boss". You have to smell the heady aroma of exhaust, pollution, rotting garbage, urine and sweat, with undertones of mould and piquant hints of goat. You have to be overwhelmed by bright, clashing colours made only slightly less obtrusive by the veneer of dirt that covers everything. Photographs, however, are what I have...

72%, a short visual survey: In 2010, Bangladesh proudly announced that 72% of the population owned at least one pair of shoes: you do the math. Of course, that included the most worn out, hand-me-down flipflips. And that one pair of shoes only worn on special occasions. And the 100s of pairs sitting in the closets of wealthy individuals who might wear a particular pair once or twice before replacing them....

FASHION AND FABRIC: Bangladesh is one of the main sources of ready-made garments for the world. Rather than do yet another essay on the appalling conditions in which RMG workers created that shirt you bought last week, I found myself concentrating on what they, themselves, chose to wear. Be warned: It is said that pink is tne navy blue of the subcontinent. In Bangladesh, orange is even more popular!

TOURISM: Yes, Virginia, there is a Bangladesh tourist industry. Internationally, it trumpets the Sunderbans and the tigers therein. Domestically, it promotes various resorts, of variable quality. Personally, I think it is missing a bet in ignoring the world's largest flying cockroaches, but those come free with whatever destination you choose.