VII Interactive: Lecture. The Role of the Storyteller as Activist

Virtual event


December 3, 2020
10:00–11:15AM EST

This is a photo by Habibul Haque of Drik. We had put up an exhibit in 2010 called “Crossfire” on extrajudicial killings. The government sent in armed police to shut the show down. We took the government to court and were able to get the show reopened on the last day. Despite the closure, the show was remarkably successful and resulted in a significant drop in ‘crossfire’ deaths. Recently ‘crossfire’ deaths have been on the rise, and we decided to do a street version of the earlier show, adding two new landmark cases from recent years. First, the government arranged an ‘event’ at the venue we had chosen at the same time and sent a large police contingent too. We relocated to a place near the university campus (where the photo below was taken by Habibul Haque/Drik). They followed us to this place and stood with pro-government placards behind and beside our banner and show. Our show was performative with people falling over at the sound of gunshots, so they lay down beside us as well, except that they kept shouting slogans while dead on the floor! Quite funny really, except that they got very aggressive and took away one of the photographs and damaged some others. But this lead to countrywide protests by leading citizens.

Shahidul Alam is a legendary and inspirational figure in photography and a leading activist in Bangladesh. In this special conversation with Paul Lowe, Shahidul will describe the transformation from doing a PhD in UK as part of a career path to a white-collar job to using the camera as a tool to affect social change in his homeland of Bangladesh. He’ll also talk about the evolution of his style of photography, from his early work in the 80’s documenting street protests against the rule of President Hussain Muhammad Ershad, to more contemporary conceptual work and his multidisciplinary approach. He will also discuss the reasons behind building institutions, and the roles these institutions have played in nation-building. As a photographer whose work has contributed to toppling autocratic regimes and attracting global focus on the needs of his homeland, Shahidul is uniquely positioned to discuss the role of the visual storyteller as activist.

Paul Lowe

, London
Dr. Paul Lowe is a Reader in Documentary Photography and the Course Leader of the Masters program in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts, London, UK. Paul is an award-winning photographer who has been published in TIME, Newsweek, Life, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Observer, and The Independent, amongst others. He has covered breaking news the world over, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela’s release, famine in Africa, the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and the destruction of Grozny.