Shahidul Alam: Singed But Not Burnt Curated by Ina Puri
June 18 - Aug 20, 2022

Especially relevant at a time when freedom of speech and expression is being challenged the world over,  Shahidul Alam’s work  is like a beacon of light and hope. From the epic horror of landscapes devastated by climate change to unflinching images of the ordinary man in the streets who has to struggle through poverty and social inequality to make ends meet to the intimate portaits of strangers who have become friends over time, Shahidul Alam’s searing portraits bring alive a world that he has embraced as his own. The lens of the photographer remains unwaveringly focused on the under-represented and the minority, creating imagery that is at once protest, reportage and art. As committed as he is to his activism, the viewer cannot but conclude that Alam’s eye is aware of the beauty in the moment, for the aesthete in him is never too far away. The series of works selected bear testimony to that, as well as to his belief in humanity.

In Shahidul Alam’s words : ‘As journalists we need to feel the heat,to stand close to the fire, but then we also risk being burnt. If we were to take one step back, we become ineffective.The trick, therefore, is to get singed but not burnt’.

Selected meticulously from the photographer’s vast archives in Dhaka, this exhibition provides the viewer a look at his early experiments in pictorealism and his later experimentations in exploring the political space by developing a new vocabulary. In a parallel narrative shot by his students and colleagues, we see Alam himself amidst protests, then his incarceration at Keraniganj. His release comes 101 days after he was taken into custody, this is due to the intervention of of global intellectuals who demanded his unconditional release and allowed him to walk free ---singed but not burnt. We also share an image of that jubilant moment with you.

 During the period of his incarceration I had been in close contact with Alam’s partner Rahnuma Ahmed who brought us news from Keraniganj Jail. This  retrospective exhibtion would not have been possible without the support of Rahnuma Ahmad, Asm Rezaur Rahman, Tanzim Wahab, Munem Wasif,  Parvez Ahmad Rony, Taslima Akhter and Saydia Gulrukh amongst others, at Drik and Pathshala and I am grateful to each one for their support. I am also deeply grateful to Dr Shahidul Alam for giving me the privilege to present his retrospective exhibition in India.


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