New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 6 February 22 to 28, 2012

Eyes Open
G.M.B. Akash
Survivors
 by G.M.B. Akash. Source: anastasia-photo.com
G.M.B. Akash

G.M.B. Akash is one of those photographers you’ve probably never heard of, but once you see this eye-opening exhibition at Anastasia, you’ll want to see a lot more of his work.

Akash is a Bangladeshi photojournalist who, at the age of 34, has already won more than 60 international awards, including the World Press Photo Award. His work has appeared in some 50 publications, from National Geographic and Time to The Guardian and Vogue. But make no mistake about it – this guy is no fashionista. He’s out to effect positive change with his photographs and “Survivors” is a heart-wrenching example of his work. He spent ten years on this project, photographing child laborers and sex workers in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Philippines and Bhutan. The photos in the gallery exhibition were all taken in Bangladesh. Most of his subjects might be considered poster children for the Third World, and unfortunately that includes the sex workers shown here. The question you will most likely ask yourself is how the photographer managed to take these pictures since his subjects appear completely unaware of his presence. For example, how did he manage to take a photograph of a factory owner beating a 12 year-old child laborer with a big stick? The answer may be in a published interview in which he explains:

…In the beginning, it feels like forbidden territory, a place you are not supposed to enter surrounded by borders of privacy… You, the photographer, are there at a factory or brothel with your simple black bag hanging from your shoulder…the first days following these intrusions, I never take pictures, they would not be good. I have a friendly conversation….and there is consent. People don’t accuse me, reject me or pose in unnatural ways. Then I click away and it feels like conversation.”

 by G.M.B. Akash. Source: anastasia-photo.com
G.M.B. Akash

What’s astonishing about these pictures is seeing close-ups of children working for ten dollars a month in extremely hazardous jobs to support their families. Each of the fifteen photographs in the exhibition has very descriptive captions that add to the sadness/power of the photos. Akash’s use of color is also striking—I think of Mary Ellen Mark’s work in India–– but Akash’s work has a life of its own. In several photographs, the caption explains that the underage sex workers in the brothel are given a drug that makes them appear older since the law says they have to be 18. It also causes them to retain water and appear plump—which some Bangladeshi men like.

There are also several portraits of young child laborers — one is of a ten year old boy who after working as an apprentice without pay for two years in a Bangladesh factory earns $8 a month. Of all the pictures in the show only he is smiling.

G.M.B. Akash
Survivors


Anastasia Photo
166 Orchard St.
Lower Manhattan - East         Map

212 677 9725
anastasia-photo.com

Monday, October 24 to
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11 to 7
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