Sleep Driver by Sayed Asif Mahmud

We are going now to one of the most vibrant megalopolises of the planet. We are going to Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, currently hosting more than 17 million inhabitants.

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

Dhaka is projected to become the 6th most crowded city on earth by 2030. The western mind, when thinking about the livelihood conditions in such a booming southasian urban jungle, might perhaps conjure up some rather unpleasant connotations, or at least connotations that make him feel uncomfortable. For example the idea that all the city dwellers he would cross in the never ending stream of passers by, seem to be doomed to become merely anonymous players in an uncertain drama with no main characters at all.

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

 

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

But, we do not want to pin down the Dhakaiyas to the vulnerable roles global economy has forced them to adopt. We do not want to confirm the image of the third world that the so-called 1% in the so-called first world likes to maintain in its press as something deplorable but also fatally external to their own lives.

 

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

We invite you to look at the work of Sayed Asif Mahmud, a unique Bangladeshi photographer, that allows you to to live the life in Dhaka from within, from within the heart of what is the culture of the overwhelming majority of contemporary global civilization. From within the heart of those who continue to flock to the modern megalopolis, leaving behind traditional life on the countryside. From within a heart full of doubts, reflecting like no other, the human condition of all those moving people, trying to cope with their new urban realities, trying to cope with the 21first century rat race.

Sayed Asif Mahmud is an alumnus of Patshala, the remarkable photography school in Dhaka founded by Shahidul Alam in 1998 and the alma mater of a unique generation of Bangladeshi  photographers who made it on the stage of world class documentary photography.

His work Tobacco Tale got second prize in Non Traditional Photojournalism Award by NPPA (2013) and Honorable Mention in The 5th Edition of the Anthropographia Award 2013. He was on of the 25 best new photographers of 2015, selected by British Journal of Photography.

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

He also continued his personal work, whose chapters he called “My city of unheard prayers“, “sleep driver” and “the outsider” and we have the impression that these chapters when merged with Tobacco Tale are becoming one grand and mysterious epopee. A photographic tale of an outsider soul, torn between the discourses of the Bengali countryside man  who is secured by nature and family  and the “free” global citizen, torn between the discourses of traditions, religion and secularism. Torn between the discourses of the philosopher and the lover.

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

Sayed Asif Mahmud is exploring the romantic stance of the outsider further while taking photographs “as fragments of relationship and isolation“.  He further explains: “So to speak, Sleep Driver, has become a diary of an outsider, on the margin with timidity, recollecting steps before the vanishing presence of fleeting time.” He describes Bangladeshi culture as “a latitude of my observations, realizations and recurrence of the unknown“.

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© Sayed Asif Mahmud

Interestingly, at this stage, Mahmud has only produced a dummy version of (part of) his work in the context of the 2013 Delhi Photo Festival. Would it be possible that a more elaborated and accomplished photobook will be realized in the future? It is hoped from the bottom of our hearts, because a book featuring this “hypnotic and grainy photography” (Hester Keijser), might have the same impact as “A river called Titas“, another masterpiece of Bangladesh’s visual art history, that was also created by an outsider and that, in spite of its highly personal messages, was “dedicated to the myriad toilers of everlasting Bengal“.

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Thank you very much Mr. Mahmud!