Not long ago I stumbled upon the work of GMB Akash, a photographer from Bangladesh who has accrued a respectable trophy case of international awards for his work. He’s won a handful of “firsts” for his people — first Bangladeshi to win the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris and get selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands, for example. Click through the image tabs above to see some of his finer work.
What struck me about Akash’s work (in addition to their quality) was that so much of it was shot in his own backyard.
It’s easy for photographers to buy into the fallacy that more exotic = better photos. Hell, I’m guilty of it at times. Roll back the calendar a couple weeks in this very blog and you’ll find me in South Africa shooting great white sharks , dreaming of helicopter safaris across the Sahara and our Executive Producer just wrapped up her 4-part series on travel tips earlier this week. There is something to be said for the mystery and wonder that comes from traveling for the first time to a distant land. It excites one’s imagination and opens your eyes to the photographic possibilities teeming in that locale.
But Akash reminds us that the photogenic exists everywhere, including the town or city you live in. His shots of life across Bangladesh drip with meaning and texture. The dark alleys, the sleeping pilgrims riding the tops of trains, the child laborers — all this and he never had to deal with airport security or hotel reservations.
So stop shopping Expedia for the cheapest flight to Nepal. Pick up your camera and walk outside. Your next great gallery may lie just around the corner of your front stoop.
Not sure where to begin? Here are 5 ways you can find inspiration without needing a passport.
1) Open your eyes. Too simple? Try too often. As in, too often we become blind to the surroundings we live in. Get off your phone, pick your head up and take it all in.
2) Take the road less traveled. We are creatures of habit, particularly when it comes to our commutes. But we photographers thrive on discovery. So next time you hop in the car to head to the grocery store, pick a path you’ve never taken before.
3) Be an expert on your town. Anne Michaels once said, “If you know one landscape well, you will look at all other landscapes differently.” Explore, explore, explore. And dig into the local library for some town history. At the very least you’ll probably come across some fascinating old photos of the town As It Once Was. Let those inspire you.
4) Climb down a few rungs. Akash’s subjects are those our society might try to sweep under the rug: the homeless, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free. Find those people in your town. Their portraits are stained with stories of conflict and hardship. Don’t forget to give something back to them, too.
5) Travel. What? Hypocrisy! But wait, it doesn’t have to be halfway across the globe. Get out on a little excursion (or a longer one), and then come back home. See things differently? You should. A writer once said, “Maybe you had to leave in order to miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.”