Shahidul Alam

Shahidul Alam

2018 HONOREE: Humanitarian Award

A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry from London University before switching to photography. Returning to Dhaka in 1984, he documented the democratic struggle to remove Bangladesh’s autocratic ruler General Hussain Muhammad Ershad. A former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the award winning Drik agency, the Bangladesh Photographic Institute, the Chobi Mela festival, the Majority World agency and Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world.

Alam’s work has been shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern London and Museum of Contemporary Arts Tehran. He has been a guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery, National Art Gallery Malaysia, Musee de Quai Branly and Brussels Biennale. His numerous awards include Mother Jones, Howard Chapnick Grant, Open Society Institute Audience Engagement Grant and Shilpakala Padak, the highest national award given to Bangladeshi artists. His show “Best Years of My Life” was the central exhibit at the Global Forum for Migration and Development in Dhaka and Berlin, the Global Media Forum in Bonn and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London. His work on Islamophobia and Extremism, “Embracing the Other” was shown to international acclaim at the Bait Ur Rouf mosque. He was the guest curator for the Auckland Festival in New Zealand, and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Dali Festival in China in 2017. He is curating a major show on Bangladeshi art at the Photo Museo Cuatro Caminos in Mexico City. In 2018 he will be the Keynote Artist at inaugural Art Exhibit at Concordia Forum in Geneva and receive the Alpavirama 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Institute of Design in India.

A speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, museums in all continents, as well as TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam has been a jury member in prestigious international contests, including World Press Photo, which he chaired, and Prix Pictet, which was chaired by Kofi Anan. Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, Alam is a Visiting Professor of Sunderland University in UK, Adjunct Professor in RMIT in Australia and Regent Professor at UCLA in USA and advisory board member of National Geographic Society and Eugene Smith Fund. His book “My journey as a witness”, listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo, has been described by John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine, as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.” “Birth Pangs of a Nation” edited by Alam, was voted the best book of 2012 at Asian Publishing Convention. His show “Kalpana’s Warriors”, which is currently on tour, was voted “Best Exhibition” at Dali Festival in China in 2015 and was the central exhibit at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2016 in Malta. It is being exhibited at the Freedom City 2017 in Newcastle UK to honour Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and was the Bangladeshi entry at the inaugural Kuala Lumpur Biennale in 2017. In 2009, Alam was commissioned by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to take what turned out to be the last official portrait of Nelson Mandela.

An active blogger, human rights campaigner and new media pioneer, Alam introduced email to Bangladesh in the early nineties.

Shahidul Alam, photographer, writer, curator, activist.

Shahidul Alam was arrested and charged for violating Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act and held in Bangladesh since Sunday, August 5, 2018. He was arrested for merely speaking his opinion about the ongoing student protests taking place in Bangladesh. This is an egregious violation of rights, a dangerous precedent and a grave threat to journalists everywhere. Not only do we demand the immediate release of Shahidul, we stand as a united front against these kinds of attacks to journalism wherever they arise in the world.