GMB Akash grew up in Dhaka as a shy and lonely 19-year old teenager. In school, he was always seated at the back of the classroom. “I felt something was not normal with my life,” he said. Though uncertain of what career to pursue, he took up and completed a business administration course and subsequently enrolled in computer programming.
The eldest of two boys, Akash felt alone and always upset. Partly to blame, he confided, was the fact that his father was hardly at home, often traveling around Bangladesh as a monitoring manager of a jute company.
All that changed, however, with photography. “ My personality and character started to evolve,” he said. Thanks to an old Yashica FX3 camera his father bequeathed to him in 1996. With it was an English manual that he hardly understood. It forced him to study the language and learn all about the camera.
His interest in composing and taking pictures grew, not of landscape, flower or nature, but of people and how they live. People fascinated him – their struggle to make both ends meet, their moments of sadness and laughter, and their capacity to find strength and dignity in work. “ I saw beauty in people. I realize then that my camera became the oxygen of my life, gradually transforming who I was and what I wanted to be,” he said.
In 1998, Akash attended a photo exhibition in Dhaka on the ill effects of HIV-AIDs. Pictures displayed a brother who feared to touch his AIDs-stricken brother, and dying parents whose children were sent to orphanages.
“From this exhibit, I learned much about the disease, and began to take more pictures, realizing the power of image to educate people, ‘ he said.
In shooting pictures, Akash has two objectives: people must be appreciated and their lives should be changed positively. He cites his photos of child laborers, which he says gives him a good perspective of their stories. Child labor should be stopped, he insists, emphasizing that children should not work, but should spend time in school learning, reading and playing with their peers.
In most cases, Akash uses his lens to highlight the disadvantaged and underprivileged people in Bangladesh. His work has earned him several international awards in photography, a total of over 40 international awards and distinctions.
This year, he bagged the top prize in the “KLICK! – Your View of Human Rights and Globalization – international photo competition at this year’s Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany, and in the 2nd Water Integrity photo competition organized by the Water Integrity Network (WIN).
His work has been featured in over 50 major international publications including: National Geographic, Vogue, Time, Newsweek, Geo, Stern, Der Spiegel, The Fader, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Colors, The Economist, Amnesty Journal, and Sunday Telegraph of London.
In 2002, Akash had the distinction to be selected as the first Bangladeshi for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004, he again became the first Bangladeshi to receive the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris.
With the advent of new media, Akash realized the power of multimedia. “ I felt that photos are not enough to tell stories. I am missing the sound and the participation of people. That’s why I enrolled in the ACFJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism,” he said
So far, the one-year program has given him much to learn about the dynamics of various media and how they can serve his profession. “ The faculty has made it much easier for me to learn using multimedia,” he pointed out.
Thirty-four year old Akash is proud of his accomplishments including serving as a jury member of some international competitions and speaking before international forums.
His latest endeavor is the forthcoming publication of his book entitled
“Survivors,” a compilation of selected photos he took in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. The pictures highlight working people who despite their struggle to get out of poverty show strength and dignity in their work and their lives. He is raising funds through the Internet.
Akash admits he is a changed man. Gone is his shyness and feeling of loneliness. To know more about his potential subjects, he starts a conversation with them and shares his life story and journey to become a better person.
As a multi-awarded photographer, Akash believes his photos and future work in multimedia will change people’s lives for the better.