IN CONVERSATION WITH AHSANUL HAQUE FAHIM
Ahsanul Haque Fahim is a passionate photographer from Bangladesh whose enthusiasm for photography began as a hobby and eventually led to studies at ‘Pathshala South Asian Media Institution’ in 2021. Fahim continues photography by developing personal projects while finding special interest in portraiture, street photography, and spatial landscapes of people in their natural environments in his home and community in Bangladesh.
Fahim believes that the world and especially his environment has the ability to adjust and adapt to the changes we are facing as a direct effect from our negligence and mistreatment of what ‘Mother Nature’ bounties us with. Fahim looks to the simplicities in his community for inspiration. He finds beauty in everything his neighborhood offers him. Fahim does not need special locations, or glamorous guest models for motivation to create his view in photography, but prefers to photograph his community and bring a focus to the connections that he has made there.
The series Fahim has chosen to highlight is a visual excursion into the month of December, during a year of a relentless and intense winter. In this interview with The Pictorial List, Fahim talks about how he approached his work, and what he wanted to depict in his spatial landscapes. The spatial landscapes Fahim has presented are a testimony to the inspiration he has found through the love of his community.
“Try to find beauty in your nearby surroundings.”
Hello Ahsanul, tell us about yourself.
Just call me Fahim! I am currently 25 years of age. I am from Bangladesh, coming from a small town named Brahmanbaria. Talking about the surrounding environment it is not that artist friendly or you can say photographer friendly. It possess kind of conservativeness, religious conservativeness in that sense. So the society here doesn’t provide open window, scope of encouragement for artistic minds.
Obviously you may wonder how I get myself into the field of photography! In fact photography isn’t something that comes by default to me. My family and I didn't have any involvement with camera whatsoever. It never was my first choice. Digging more into my past, back into my teenage years, I wasn’t serious about life and future planning. I aspired to be a cricketer. Cricket was my sole passion. Time passed by, I finished high school and took admission into college. Those were the early years of smartphone evolution in my country. I am talking about early 2014, when the smartphone took over the market by storm. I also had my first smart phone around that time. With the smartphone there comes the camera. There were few friends of mine who were very into mobile photography, and were able to blur the background using just a smartphone camera. I regarded it very cool at that time. They always took those snaps tentatively showing me whether I could capture a few similar to that. It was kind of throwing a challenge to me. That’s how I got involved in taking pictures, with mobile phone snaps.
Yes, you could undoubtedly find tons of flaws in these photos, but those were the images that ignited the fuel inside me. I had found my new interest in this form of photography. Few years passed by, it was 2016 and I completed my college studies. In between that time, an uncle came to visit with his camera and gave it to me for use. The camera was Sony Alpha A330 with a default kit lens. Getting the camera pushed me to uplift my photography level. Now, that I had a dedicated camera, it was time for me to get serious about photography. In order to master the skills in the field of photography, I needed academical knowledge in order to pursue.
Then comes the “Pathshala” chapter in my life. There is a senior brother from the neighborhood that suggested taking admission into “Pathshala South Asian Media Institution”. Based in Dhaka, the country’s capital, this particular institution is renowned to be the finest Photography and Cinematography learning institution of the country. I wasted no time to take admission. At the beginning it was a one month Basic Course in Photography. I wanted to pursue further to dive into the advance knowledge. I decided to take admission into the one year Professional Course in Photography. I submitted my portfolio and underwent face to face interview where thankfully I got selected and that is how my journey into photography began. It wasn’t easy for me considering the fact that I had to cross such long distance from my hometown to Dhaka by train in order to attend the classes. It was three day class in a week, and it was cumbersome, but my passion kept me going. There, I have learnt almost everything from basic to advance, most importantly they have taught me to develop pair of eyes to see stories. So you can conclude the one academic year that I have passed there has shaped my life into photography.
How have the streets and culture you capture influence your photography?
All of our South Asian countries including Bangladesh and India are known to be densely populated. Here you will hardly find any major streets without any hustling crowds. These streets are my part of my life. Still to this very date whether its about going to University or grocery shopping I’ve been to the streets. For mostly being crowded, you will experience so many spontaneous moments happening simultaneously. Whether it’s a snake charmer playing his tricks or a stranger chasing to board a travelling bus, all these moments are purely raw stories, candid emotions. It is the beauty of raw stories, the unrepeatable moments with in the crowd, the unpredictability of what gonna happen next intrigued me to invest into street photography.
Tell us about the photo series you are submitting.
So it was a study project under my one year professional course where I was given the assignment to do spatial landscapes. The month was December, midst of an intense winter. So I wanted to utilize the foggy atmosphere to create a obscure aesthetic through my photographs. The location was a brick field. Brickfields have been notorious, especially in this part of the world for desecrating the atmosphere as well as violating the workers rights. When I went to the location it was at dawn covered by the dense fog creating a whimsical view to the surroundings. But not for long as in the background the chimneys of the brick field evidencing their plundering over the environment.
I like the simplicity in this series. I am a believer of beauty is in what surrounds us. It's not always about going to exotic locations to find beauty. We seem to never find the beauty in our own neighborhood that it has to offer us. It is absent in our perspective. This series challenges those perspectives.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?
I sure do. Quite a few. Garry Winogrand (Photographer), Fan Ho (Photographer), Alex Webb (Photographer), Steve McCurry (Photographer), Bruce Gilden (Photographer), Hasan Chandan (Photographer), Leonardo da Vinci (Painter), Lalon (Folk Singer, Philosopher), Chester Bennington (Singer).
If you could just choose one photographer to shoot alongside for a day...who would you choose? And why?
Hasan Chandan. If you have seen this photos, it will make you wonder how effortlessly he was able to find and see extraordinary among ordinary frames. As a street photographer that is something I want to achieve, to be able to see and find extraordinary moments in very ordinary frame. And who else could be better teacher than Hasan Chandan himself!
When you are out shooting - how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
I am someone who always believe that producing art can’t be preplanned. Especially when it is applicable to street photography when the outcome moment is very unpredictable. Yes, I mean you can plan on maintaining a theme if you working on a series based work but you can’t plan for a unpredictable outcome. There are few of my own favorites which I didn’t even plan for shooting on that particular day. I was on a regular walk and somewhere there I saw something interesting going on. So I
opened my smart phone and captured them. You see there is a famous saying is that “Unplanned trips are the best trips”. Same applies in street photography.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length? How much post-processing do you do?)
I have been using the Nikon D7200 for quite a while now. And in street photography where everything is happening very quick and fast, this camera struggles. Yes it does produce rich color and details though I want a lightweight and fast focusing small in size camera. As I am more into capturing delicate fraction of second moments. I am looking for mirrorless or maybe shift into a point and shoot camera sooner or later. Although 35 regards as the standard focal length for street photography, I don’t believe to be limited by a certain focal length. I prefer focal lengths according to the situation and composition demands. I don’t rely much on post processing. Basic correction such as light adjustment, color adjustments are generally I do.
What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
As a photographer my goal is to remain alive through my photographs. After a time I won’t be here anymore but my photos will be. When ever someone will be see my photos, I want them to instantly recognize the man behind capturing the photo. Currently I am studying at University along with taking photographs occasionally. In next five years I want to obtain a decent portfolio.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
It is a personal project where I want to cover all the cultural and traditional festivals of Bangladesh.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
Explore new places."
Thank you Fahim!
All photographs © Ahsanul Haque Fahim