16 August 2011

Internationally renowned Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist, Dr Shahidul Alam, will lead a free public discussion in Brisbane next week (23 August).

The talk by Dr Alam, who has been using photography to advocate for social change for more than 30 years, is hosted by The University of Queensland’s Centre of Communication and Social Change within the School of Journalism and Communication, and Griffith University.

Dr Alam says he was influenced by inequality in his native Bangladesh and The Liberation War and pursued a life in photography to challenge oppression and imperialism in all its forms.

“The power of the image to short-circuit receptor resistance is what makes images both powerful and dangerous,” Dr Alam said.

“It is imperative that both the photographer and the public can tell the lie from the truth. The knowledge of visuals is an essential prerequisite to this process.

“It is the primary tool used for shaping our perceptions, and a language we are constantly bombarded with. Hence it is essential that we equip ourselves to cope with, utilise and deconstruct this ubiquitous and pervasive tool. Ironically it is a language we are rarely trained to decipher.

“Its replicability, its ability to overcome barriers of language and its ability to create a powerful emotional response make the visual the tool of choice to engineer social change."

Attacked, arrested, and threatened with death, Dr Alam has also established a photography school, an award-winning agency, and the world’s most diverse photography festival. Widely celebrated, Alam claims as his achievements not the awards and exhibitions but the people he has trained and the lives he has transformed.

Dr Alam’s week-long visit to Australia is a result of a cross-institutional collaboration between The University of Queensland, Queensland College of Art and Griffith University. As well as the public discussion at UQ, Dr Alam will attend an Australian Photo Journalist Editorial Board Meeting, meet with students from the two universities and hold a public seminar at the Museum of Brisbane while he is in Brisbane.

Dr Alam will discuss the role of ‘the visual’ in communication for social change in a free public talk at the James Birrell Room of the UQ Staff Club, St Lucia, on Tuesday August 23 at 5.30pm.

Please RSVP to siena.perry@uq.edu.au

Media: Siena Perry, Centre for Communication and Social Change, 3346 3465.

Dr Shahidul Alam background
After obtaining a PhD in chemistry from the University of London, Dr Alam turned to photography. He was the first Asian recipient of the prestigious Mother Jones Award for Documentary Photography, and the Andrea Frank Foundation Award and the Howard Chapnick Award. He has been awarded the Honorary Fellowships of the Bangladesh Photographic Society and, the Royal Photographic Society, for his contribution to photography. On four occasions he has been a jury member of World Press Photo chaired the international jury in World Press Photo history. His work has been shown in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Royal Albert Hall in London, Le centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

In 1989 he set up Drik picture library, with a core vision is to work towards making Bangladesh a country where people can exercise their right to express dissent peacefully and a country where information will flow freely. Drik now provides media services including web development, video production, print production and exhibitions.

Dr Alam is also the founder chairman of Majority World, a global community interest initiative formed to provide a platform for indigenous photographers, photographic agencies and image collections from the majority world to gain access to global image markets.