Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power presents the first comprehensive U.S. museum survey of Shahidul Alam, the renowned Bangladeshi photographer, writer, activist, and institution-builder and a Time magazine Person of the Year in 2018. Over 40 images and ephemera will show the breadth of his practice and impact throughout his four-decade career. The exhibition includes portraits, landscapes, and scenes of daily life, strife, and resistance in the “majority world”—a phrase Alam has used since the 1990s to reframe the notion of the “third world” or “global south.” The term also confronts the ways in which Western media continues to define how the majority of the world’s population—especially Bangladesh—is portrayed in relation to poverty and disaster.
This pioneering exhibition aims to provide visitors with a nuanced view of Bangladesh and South Asia, to explore systems of personal and collective agency, and to underscore the importance of self-representation, empowerment, and truth as embodied in Alam’s life and work.
While shining an unflinching light on major Bangladeshi tragedies and struggles, Alam’s images reveal a country and cultures often misunderstood and misrepresented. In addition to his powerful photographs, Alam has made an impact in Bangladesh, across South Asia, and even globally as the conceptual architect of transformative institutions, including Drik Picture Library, Drik Gallery, Pathshala South Asia Media Institute, Chobi Mela Photography Festival, and Majority World Photos. The regional solidarity he catalyzed cannot be overstated and will be illustrated through the exhibition narrative.
Alam’s role as changemaker is one he inhabits with equal resolve and energy. His belief in nurturing visual literacy has driven him to go beyond mere advocacy: Through the institutions he has built, he empowers the disenfranchised and misrepresented to tell their own stories.
Curated by Beth Citron
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Shahidul Alam (b. 1955, Dhaka, Bangladesh); Smriti Azad, Dhaka; 1994; photograph courtesy of Drik.
Azad attended political rallies with her sister when she was a child. As a singer and performer, she was involved with the women’s movement, the committee demanding the trial of war criminals, and the cultural group Charon Shangshkritik Kenro, which led to her joining Shommilito Shangshkritik Jote. As part of this group, she was active in the movement to bring down President Ershad. Here, Azad is pictured protesting at a rally at Shahid Minar.