Laurence Leblanc’s Exhibition Opens at Alliance Francaise

Laurence Leblanc speaks at the opening at Alliance Francaise. Photograph Saikat Mojumder

Laurence Leblance ‘s exhibition Can All Dreams be Found Somewhere Else? is now on at Alliance Francaise.

Laurence Leblance in the world of photography is a rare example of restraint, humility and self-control. For her, the act of taking a picture grows from gradual impregnation with the subject and his or her environment. The resulting pictures are often carefully thought-out, precise, and elaborate developments. Particularly sensitive to the violence in the world and to the chaos of destinies, she rids herself of all documentary curiosity in order to focus deeply on what is not visible: the muteness of an ancient pain, the texture of an absent look.

Darvuth, Cambodia. Photograph Laurence Leblanc

From her first explorations in Cambodia to her work on “Lost objects”, art critics who have written about her images, use a wide array of adjectives as they attempt without ever completely succeeding to give shape her style: dispelling, impressionistic, delicate, discreet, melancholic, vibrating, dreamlike. …Yet, if any of these qualifiers are able to somewhat define her subtle attempts and the inner turmoil her photographs provoke, they also bring confusion.


Laurence Leblance with the Guest of Honour at the exhibition Dr. Hameeda Hossain, Human Rights Activist, Founder Member of Ain o Salish Kendra. Photograph Saikat Mojumder.


Ms. Rosa Maria Falvo, Asia-Pacific Publications and Projects Manager of SKIRA International Publishing Group takes a closer look. Photograph Saikat Mojumder

Visitors at the Exhibition. Photograph Saikat Mojumder


Alliance Francaise is also  holding parallel exhibition titled “Dreaming” by Irish artist Erin Quinn at Gallery Zoom.


These two exhibitions are part of Chobi Mela VI – the International Festival of Photography 2011.

Both exhibitions will be open to the public till 3 February 2011.

Alliance Francaise de Dhaka

26 Mirpur Road, Dhanmondi  Res. Area, Dhaka

 Gallery Opening Times: Monday – Thursday: 3pm to 9pm, Friday – Saturday: 10am to 12 pm and 5pm to 8pm

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Whose work is it anyway? by Chris Riley

Garment Workers in Dhaka. Photograph Taslima Akhter

Tension is the elemental force of creativity. Creativity is about making something new, pulling it out of the universe and presenting it to us so that we see differently and feel new feelings. A power of photography is that it plays with our sense of reality. The image made by one person is not the same as the image made by another of the same person, thing or place. “There  is the image he made and the image I made a few minutes later”, so spoke Morten Krogvold at Chobi Mela. In todays exploration of the image and the reality it constructs we ran the gamut of feelings. From the tragic loss of a parent without a clear and present narrative, to the competing stories of garment workers and the owners of the factories. The tension between alternative narratives was palpable as Taslima Akhter took us on a deep dive into the lives of factory workers in contrast to the fantasy lives of staged photographs and memento mori. In the audience was a garment factory owner, he wanted an additional narrative. And why not? Do we not all want stories that validate our sense of place in the world?

An issue raised by Majority World is that the stories we are steeped in are bought and paid for by a minority of people. The stories they want in the world validate their place in the world, a place of power and influence enabled by factory workers and marketplace fundamentalism. So why not change that and bring to the world the stories of its majority? This is another question raised at Chobi Mela VI today. Of course the minority own the media so finding acceptance will be hard and the tension between photographer and editor will continue. Whose story is it anyway? Artists can define the terms of acceptance, they earn it the hard way by a staying their course and not being beaten, trading financial success for personal vision. It was interesting to me that the definition of the photographer was itself up for grabs as the artist argued with the editor. An artists passionately avoids compromise. A photojournalist is reporting for a magazine. Both are sacred tasks within which the soul of the photographer is laid bare and the question remains thankfully unanswered: whose work is it anyway?

Posted in Chobi Mela, Chobi Mela Evening Presentations, Chris Riley | 1 Comment

Dialog in Dhaka by Chris Riley

Today, Chris Riley joins as a contributor to this blog, bringing an ousider perspective of the Chobi Mela VI festival.  Chris Riley will address Chobi Mela VI at the Goethe Institut Evening Presentations on Wednesday  26 January, 2011 at 7:15 pm. 

We’ll officially link him in as a contributor but till then I am copying his posts from his blog Learning From… with his permission.

Shahadil Alam, the pivot of Chobi Mela VI. Photograph by Chris Riley

Dhakha, Bangladesh: I have been here two days and the surface is slowly beginning to fade away as the city and its people cautiously reveal themselves. Shahidul Alam and his team arranged for a river journey through the fog of The Buriganga River, past the brick works and boatbuilders, to the broad outlet of the delta. It was a long night of music and joy to celebrate the opening of the Chobi Mela VI International Festival of Photography. Baul music filled the boat until dawn, a celestial music, devotional, rhythmic and filled with love.

Chobi Mela’s restless creativity is part chaos, part human enterprise and all Bangladesh. It is real, an urgent investigation into how we are as people and what we are doing in and to this world. The theme is “Dreams” and already the imagination of the storytellers is causing delight and controversy. Young photographers eschewing staid presentations fill the auditorium with multimedia shows that evoke more emotion than Hollywood could ever imagine. The flawed and the near perfect are side by side but it is the power of the personal story that elevates. The young and the old compete for attention, the old seeing the old techniques and their attendant philosophies wane as the young emerge with new ways and new perspectives. The mass media of objectivity and truth is giving way to the social media of perspective and feeling. In the conversation we struggle with the idea of truth in its multiple forms. I talk with a young Fulbright Scholar about the politicization of history, the multiple frames of truth and its consequences.Creative chaos is here, it is a vital energy that drives people. As one artful presenter said: I was not trying to be truthful I was trying to tell my story. (I paraphrase).

The old dark conflict of East and West, of ancient cultures with modern media skills against modern cultures overrun by their technologies, the competition between young and old, rich and poor; it does not get more elemental than this. Images of caged animals in Australia provide a perfect metaphor for the entrapments of history and the suffocating blanket of globalism. From these prisons creative people are digging tunnels with pixels and soundbites. It is exciting and it is frightening. The old order had its own comforts but here in Chobi Mela’s Majority World that comfort is stripped away.

A quote: “Civilized society treats artists well”. It is hard to be civilized when the comfort of truth is being recreated in public. But it is so civilized here, the discourse is hard, the relationships soft and warm. It is a perfect crucible within which to re-imagine the world as a better place. Which, of course, is why everyone is here.

Posted in Chobi Mela, Chobi Mela Evening Presentations, Chobi Mela VI Artists | 2 Comments

Open Air Exhibitions of Karen Knorr and Tamas Dezso at Chobi Mela VI

Photos from Puerto Rico/U.K. artist Karen Knorr’s and Hungary’s Tamas Dezso’s exhibitions currently held at the Lichutola, Faculty of Fine Arts Dhaka University.

Chobi Mela VI Banner. Photograph Chulie de Silva

Vice Chancellor, Dhaka University addressing guests at the special opening of the two open air exhibitions of Karen Knorr’s “India Song” and Tamas Dezso’s “Here Anwhere” at the Lichutola, Faculty of Arts, Dhaka University. Photograph Chulie de Silva


The Lichutola. Photograph Wahid Adnan

Karen Knorr explains to the Vice Chnacellor the making of her "Digital Tapestries". Photograph Chulie de Silva

Karen Knorr and Festival Director Shahidul Alam. Photograph Chulie de Silva

Visitor at Lichutola. Photograph Chulie de Silva

Dean Faculty of Arts, the Vice Chancellor, Karen Knorr (partly hidden) and Shahidul Alam admiring Tamas Dezso's work. Photograph Chulie de Silva

Bai Xi Natalie views Tamas Dezso's exhibition. Photograph Chulie de Silva


Visitors to the exhibition. Photograph Chulie de Silva

A visitor at Tamas Dezso's "Here Anywhere" Exhibition. Photograph Chulie de Silva

Posted in Chobi Mela | 1 Comment

Pathshala Students Exhibit at Chobi Mela VI

This year’s Chobi Mela features more students and ex-students from Pathshala than in previous years and highlights the high quality of work that is being produced in the institution. The new breed of photographers is more dynamic and experimental, breaking traditional approaches and encapsulating intimacy and personal connection in their respective stories.

Trapped in the city by maddening crowds I am filled with emptiness and a sense of alienation that I am unfamiliar with. Nature, once again became my niche, my solace, changing its webbed face and washing away my frailties. Photograph Sayed Asif Mahmud

An exemplary work from this group would be Sayed Asif Mahmud’s “My City of Unheard Prayers”. Mahmud is a second year student from Pathshala and his exhibit can be seen at the  Chobi Mela VI  exhibition at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy till the 3 February, 2011..  His work is a series of images that represent his perspective on life in the big city Dhaka.  Over time he has developed a personal account of living in the chaos of an urban jungle. Although he has spent most of his life outside Dhaka, his work focuses on Dhaka and the journey he feels entangled in with his friends, thoughts and emotions.

The theme being ‘Dreams’, I think it’s a privilege to be included in the festival. My story reflects on my dreams, nightmares and the reincarnation of dreams. I focused on two aspects of the city life – isolation and the rat race. I’ve primarily come from the northern part of Bangladesh and have often felt unattached or restless with the lifestyle here, and I’ve seen that same sense of isolation being reflected in many of my contemporaries. Competitiveness, anxiety, fear, isolation, depression – all these feelings encapsulate my mental state and how my evolving dreams, and that is what my story is all about.”

From the Digital Presentation "High Life" by Mohammad Anisul Hoque


Mohammad Anisul Hoque – also a student from Pathshala – tells a very different story. His work is selected for a digital exhibition at Goethe-Institut Auditorium on 23 January, titled “High Life”. Hoque holds a degree in botany and enjoys taking family pictures. His work is a selection of photographs that reflects the comfortable urban lifestyle of an affluent family in Dhaka and he portrays the various shades of colour and glamour in that lifestyle.

When we think about our lives and what we all eventually dream about, this is the kind of lifestyle that we all want to settle for. We want the comfort of our families, the luxury of affluence, the security of our homes and the guarantee of a smooth way of living. My story portrays the lifestyle that many of us dream about having.”

Tushikur Rahman joined Pathshala during Chobi Mela V. He feels tremendously humbled and thrilled to have picked up so much from the institution in two years.. His work “Fatalistic Tendency” portrays an amalgamated state of mind engulfed with depression, suicidal tendencies and the death of dreams, and was one of the digital exhibits at Goethe-Institut Auditorium at Chobi Mela VI on 22 January 2011.

From the Digital Presentation "Fatalistic Tendency" by Tushikur Rahman

My friends tell me my work contradicts my personality. They usually know me as someone who’s very amicable and cheerful. These photographs – on the other hand – reflect on a more anxious and devastated personality.”

Chobi Mela VI’s restless creativity  marks an exhilarating point on its journey – not only in terms of the festival, its exhibitions and the visiting artists, but also the students of the institution and the art of photography. As Dick Doughty, the Managing Editor of Saudi Aramco World Magazine and a visiting artist who is also conducting a workshop at Pathshala says, “I felt inspired on coming to Pathshala this year. The institution is shaping to be an important and remarkable center for photography, and instead of bringing ideas from elsewhere, it has begun producing its own unique ideas.”

Posted in Chobi Mela, Chobi Mela Evening Presentations, Chobi Mela VI Artists, Dick Doughty | Leave a comment

“Photographs Promote Social Change” – Dr. Ocampo, Prosecutor International Criminal Court


Opening ceremony at at National Theatre Auditorium, Bangladesh. Photograph Saikat Mojumder

 Dhaka, Bangladesh. 21 January, 2011:  Dr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC) in a special message for the Chobi Mela VI  – International Festival of Photography at its inauguration today outlined the need for Institutions like the ICC to work together with people to ensure that the “world cannot be a place where crimes can be committed to gain power or to remain in power.” Citing the case of how one photograph of man being tortured at Abu Ghraib prison caught the attention of the world he said “pictures promote change, promote social change – that’s why this festival is so important. … we need photographers. … I’ll be delighted if you can produce pictures and send to us.” He stressed the need for humanity to be united and that photographers can play a key role in bringing about change.


Opening Address by Shahidul Alam Festival Director. Photograph Saikat Mojumder


The Chobi Mela VI – International Festival of Photography opened today at the National Theatre Auditorium, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka.  The festival themed “Dreams” was inaugurated by Nadia Baram, Dick Doughty, Laurence Leblanc, Mario Macilau, David de Souza and Kelly Hussey-Smith representing Latin America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia and the Pacific respectively. Speaking at the opening Dr. Shahidul Alam, Festival Director said “Our dream is that the power of arts, and the strength of our conviction will triumph. That the power of the gun will crumble before the power of reason and conscience. That through our photography and our story telling we will right the wrongs of oppression and tyranny.”

 Reclaiming freedom for oppressed people was also the focus of a message by Omar Barghouti, Palestinian political analyst titled “A Palestinian Dream in Dhaka.”  The message read out by Dolly Akhter, first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award Scholarships said  We dream not to escape reality but to remind ourselves that we can transform it, … We dream for without dreaming our resistance may lead to merely replacing our oppressors rather than extinguishing oppression.’”


Start of the rally. Photograph Saikat Mojumder


The rally picks up momentum... Photograph Saikat Mojumder


 The opening ceremony was preceded by the traditional colourful rally commencing from the National Press Club to the Shilpakala Acdemy.


Chobi Mela VI Lights up at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Photograph Saikat Mojumder

 This year, the festival also recognized contributions to photography and society made by three outstanding artists through the Chobi Mela Lifetime Achievement Awards.  The posthumous award to  Naib Uddin Ahmed  of Bangladesh  was received by his 10 year old granddaughter Nahrin Ahmed Naxshatra.  Mrs  Olufolake Bukola Ojeikere travelled from Lagos  to accept the award on behalf of for her Father-in-law  J. D. Okhai Ojeikere of Nigeria. Pedro Meyer of Mexico accepting the award said “If having developed and strengthened a deep seated friendship between Mexican and Bangladeshi photographers counts as ‘Life Time Achievement’ then indeed I feel there is merit to this award“.  The award includes a scholarship given in the name of each recipient to a deserving student, to study for a year in Pathshala, The South Asian Media Academy.


 The festival will be held till 3 February at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Alliance Francaise de Dhaka, The Asiatic Gallery of Fine Arts, The British Council, Drik Gallery, The Goethe-Institut and the Lichutola at Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. 

  The inauguration at the National Theatre Auditorium, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and the evening sessions of presentations at Goethe Institut (21-27 January) was broadcast live on Drik TV ( 

Visitors at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Photograph Saikat Mojumder

Posted in Chobi Mela VI Press Releases, Dhaka, Dreams | Leave a comment

Fantasy and Reality Mix: an Inspired Chobi Mela VI Opens

From the Exhibition "My City of Unheard Prayers" by Sayed Asif Mahmud ( Bangladesh).

Dhaka, Bangladesh. 20 January, 2011:  The Chobi Mela VI – International Festival of Photography will open tomorrow 21 January at the National Theatre Auditorium, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka, Bangladesh at 4 pm.  The festival with its theme of “Dreams” will be inaugurated by a representative from every continent.  Dr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court will join virtually with a special message for Chobi Mela and its participants.  

 The 29 print exhibitions containing over 400 images are as diverse as the artists that produced the work for this festival.  Embedded beyond and beneath the surface of the images is a fast changing world and the strongly felt need to capture that “moment,” tell the story, blow the whistle, and be within the campus of photographers committed to getting the best of their craft. “We are essentially storytellers,” says Shahidul Alam, Festival Director of Chobi Mela.  “The transaction from analogue to digital hasn’t changed the fabric of storytelling. Today the tools are different. Our dreams differ of course. From the need of the activist to speak out against unlawful killings, to the artistic aspirations of creating a visual aesthetic, to the conceptual goals of a certain engagement through a particular visual form.”

Amputees practice physical therapy three months after the Haitian earthquake. From the exhibition "The Gift" by Carlos Cazalis (Mexico)


The inauguration at the National Theatre Auditorium, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and the evening sessions of presentations at Goethe Institut (21-27 January) will be broadcast live on Drik TV (  This unique feature of this festival will engage a number of professional and amateur photographers and other virtual participants from across the globe. An estimated 200,000 people visited the last Chobi Mela festival.  This year the number is expected to be even larger.

This year the festival will recognize contributions to photography and society made by three outstanding artists through the Chobi Mela Lifetime Achievement Awards.  This year’s recipients are J. D. Okhai Ojeikere of Nigeria, Pedro Meyer of Mexico and posthumously Naib Uddin Ahmed  of Bangladesh. The award includes a scholarship given in the name of each recipient to a deserving student, to study for a year in Pathshala, The South Asian Media Academy.

Getting Mario Macilau from Mozambique to Dhaka was a mini odyssey. However, obstacles were over come in true Shahidul style and he arrived today. Catch his exhibition The Zionist (The Zionist Church Movement in Mozambique) at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Photograph Saikat Mojumder

Many artists will be here at the festival to present their work and joining them and culturally enriching the festival will be  international practitioners from  photography, publishing, advertising and  educational sectors. Nine workshops will be held during the festival period by expert trainers in the photography field upgrading skills and knowledge of national and international participants. The week long evening presentations at Goethe Institut will provide the platform for debate on the semiotics of present day photographic practice in a broad international context, exploring new trends and issues in a fast evolving new media environment.

 Interest in the festival is high from national and international media.  Here in Dhaka “Channel I” kicked off national media coverage with a prime time TV program presenting highlights of the Chobi Mela VI festival, as well as taking a look back at previous festivals.  Much of the international interest at present stems from articles in the National Geographic website, Vogue Italy, Wall Street Journal as well as publicity on websites, blogs and Face Book pages of artists. 

 The festival will be held till 3 February at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Alliance Francaise de Dhaka, The Asiatic Gallery of Fine Arts, The British Council, Drik Gallery, The Goethe-Institut and the Lichutola at Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. 



Click on

For live broadcast of :

  • ·         The inauguration of the Chobi Mela VI – International Festival of Photography at the National Theatre Auditorium, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on the 21 January 2011 at 4 pm  
  • ·         The evening presentations at Goethe Institut

 21 January 7:30 -8:30 p.m;

22-27 January 6 to 8:30 p.m.

See also:

For more information please contact:

 Chobi Mela Secretariat

House 58, Road 15A (New), Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209

Tel +8802 8112954, 9120125, 8123412

 Media Manager:

Qamruzzaman, Tel: 01911224884

Liason and Communication:

Chulie de Silva, Tel:  01927122141

Posted in Bangladesh, Chobi Mela, Chobi Mela VI Press Releases, Dhaka, Dreams | Leave a comment

More Workshop Photos and a Tangible Results Story

Dick Doughty, Managing Editor Saudi Aramco World started his workshop “Portraits of Committments” today at Pathshala South Asia Media Academy.

Portraits of Commitments Workshop by Dick Doughty. Photograph by Saikat Mojumder


Dick Doughty's Workshop on "Portraits opf Commitments" as seen through the lens of one of his former pupils photographer Saikat Mojumder.

There is always a story within a story. Today’s story comes from photographer and my colleague at Drik,  Saikat Mojumder. He remembers  how as a student of Pathshala during Chobi Mela V he followed Dick Doughty’s workshop and how it turned out to be a great experience for him. 


Saikat Mojumder. Photograph by Lu San San

While doing a portrait of a midwife for the workshop, he was inspired to do one of his best photo stories —  “Life Born in a Slum.” For this story he says he followed a pregnant woman for six months. “I now understand the feelings a woman has about a life growing in her, the reality of motherhood – for me it was an unforgettable experience and my thanks to Dick Doughty for the training

 Here he photographs a very popular teacher Morton Krogvold.


Morton Krogvold on Photography Aesthetics. Photograph Saikat Mojumder


Morton Krogvold makes a point. Photograph Saikat Mojumder

Morton Krogvold in action. Photograph Saikat Mojumder


Morton Krogvold with his students. Photograph Saikat Mojumder


Posted in Chobi Mela, Chobi Mela Workshops, Dick Doughty, Morton Krogvold | Leave a comment

Chobi Mela VI on WSJ, National Geographic & Vogue (Italy)

Riding a rickshaw to work two days ago the caller surprised me.  It’s  the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)  — and the voice  barely audible amidst the noise on the road said  they are  interested in interviewing Shahidul Alam about the Chobi Mela Festival.  The interview happened, and the story is up today on the WSJ website by Margherita Stancati.

Festival Puts Bangladesh on Photography Map

When one of Asia’s largest photography festivals, Chobi Mela, kicks off on Friday, it is expected to draw photographers from over 30 countries to a show that has turned an unlikely destination into an important stop on the international photography circuit over the last decade.

Mr. Alam said the festival is also about challenging the prevailing narrative on the history of photography, which he criticizes as heavily “eurocentric.”  Despite South Asia’s long-standing and vibrant photography scene, Mr. Alam said, “It looks as though photography practice only happened in the West.” 

Read More:



Embedded in Karen Knorr’s photo which is the theme photo of the Chobi Mela VI Festival, on WSJ  is a slide show which gives a preview of photos that will be at the exhibions.

This is the stand-alone link for the slideshow:

 Read also about Chobi Mela VI on National Geographic

and if you can read Italian please see

Vogue – Italy

Bangladesh  Sogna by Stefania Ragusa

Posted in Chobi Mela, Naional Geographic All Roads Project, Shahidul Alam | 2 Comments

Time is flying


Azaharul Islam Drik Senior Office Asisstant getting things ready at Drik. Photograph Qamruzzaman


2 days to go for opening of the festival?  Time is flying. But then, time is always flying. Its feet never touch the ground. It’s just that now we need to fly with time. … It’s a frenzy over here. Preparations are coming to a fever pitch.  Today is almost over but the whole team is still here at Drik as they have been for the last few days.   

 Walls are painted

Painters at work sprucing up Drik. Photograph Qamruzzaman

Floors have been cleaned. Photograph Qamruzzaman.

and the Badminton Court has been changed toan Open Air Gallery

Planning the change from a badminton court to an open air gallery is A S M Rezaur Rahman, Curatorial Director and artist Munem Wasif. Photograph Saikat Mojumder


Getting it right: Foysal Ahmad Dadong Team Leader Drik Gallery Department does a trial run in the Drik open air gallery. Photograph Saikat Mojumder

Posted in Chobi Mela, Drik Gallery | 2 Comments