Shahidul Alam

Shahidul Alam
Alam in the USA (2011)
Native name শহিদুল আলম
Born 1955 (age 6263)
Nationality Bangladeshi
Education Ph.D in organic chemistry
Alma mater University of London, University of Dhaka
Occupation Photojournalism, teaching, social rights activism
Known for

Shahidul Alam (born 1955) is a Bangladeshi photojournalist, teacher and social activist. He has been a photographer for more than forty years and "his photographs have been published in almost every major western media outlet".[1]

Alam founded the Drik Picture Library in 1989, the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka in 1998, "which has trained hundreds of photographers",[1] and the Chobi Mela International Photography Festival in 1999. Alam is a visiting professor at the University of Sunderland in the UK. His books include Nature's Fury (2007) and My Journey as a Witness (2011).[2]

In 2014 he was awarded the Shilpakala Padak by the President of Bangladesh and in 2018 the Humanitarian Award from the Lucie Awards.

On August 5, 2018, Alam was arrested and detained shortly after giving an interview to Al Jazeera and posting live videos on Facebook that criticized the government's violent response to the 2018 Bangladesh road safety protests.[3] Many international humanitarian organisations and news media have called for his release without charge.

Life and work

Alam was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He studied and taught chemistry in London where he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of London.[4]

In 1989, he set up Drik Picture Library and in 1998, Pathshala South Asian Institute of Photography (later Pathshala South Asian Media Institute), in Dhaka.[5][6] Pathshala "has trained hundreds of photographers".[1][6]

He started the Chobi Mela International Photography Festival in 1999[6] and remains a director.[7] Alam has been a judge of the World Press Photo competition on four occasions, and was the first Asian chair of its judging panel.[8] He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2001.[9] He was a member of the jury board of The BOBs' award.[10] "His photographs have been published in almost every major western media outlet, including the New York Times, Time magazine and National Geographic".[1]

Alam set up the South Asian Media Academy.[5] He has covered news events including natural disasters, governmental upheavals, the deaths of garment factory workers, human rights abuses, Bangladeshi government and military's repression and the “disappearances” of political opponents.[2] His 2010 exhibition on extra-judicial killings[11] named as Crossfire curated by Peruvian curator Jorge Villacorta has been widely acclaimed, but was closed down by the police leading to nationwide protests.[5][12][13] The police barricade was removed after Drik's lawyers served legal notice on the government. The court's response and subsequent events enabled Drik to open the exhibition for public viewing on 31 March.[14] [15]

In 2010, he co-curated the exhibition Where Three Dreams Cross at Whitechapel Gallery in London.[16] In 2012, he participated in the inaugural Kochi-Muziris Biennale held in Kerala, India.[16]

He is a visiting professor at the University of Sunderland in the UK.[17]


On August 5, 2018, Alam was taken from his home in Dhanmondi[18][19][20] shortly after giving an interview to Al Jazeera and posting live videos on Facebook that criticized the government's violent response to the 2018 Bangladesh road safety protests.[1][18] Alam had said the protests "stemmed from anger about widespread government corruption, and not just the bus accident that initially sparked them."[21] He was shown arrested by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police the next day.[20] Alam claims he was tortured.[5][6]

Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists urged the Bangladeshi government to immediately release Alam without filing charges,[1][22] as did Mumbai Press Club, Bombay News Photographer Association,[23] Reporters Without Borders,[5] Noam Chomsky,[24] Arundhati Roy,[24] and PEN International.[24] William Nicholas Gomes, a human rights defender and freelance journalist wrote an open letter to Bangladesh's ambassadors demanding the release of Alam.[25][26] As many as 426 academics from various universities in Australia urged the Government of Bangladesh to release him immediately.[27] On the other hand, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, the son of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, questioned those defending and demanding freedom of Alam[28] in a controversial Facebook post.[29]

Alam is scheduled to remain in jail until at least his bail request hearing on 11 September 2018.[6]


Publications by Alam

  • Nature's Fury. Hibrida; London: Concern Worldwide, 2007. ISBN 978-0955029974. Text in English and Urdu.
  • Portraits of Commitment. UNAIDS, 2009.
  • My Journey as a Witness. Skira, 2011. Edited by Rosa Maria Falvo. ISBN 978-88-572-0966-1.[2]

Other Publications

  • Blink: 100 photographers, 10 curators, 10 writers. New York: Phaidon, 2002. 2004, ISBN 978-0714844589. Alam was a joint curator.
  • Under the Banyan Tree. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Pathshala, South Asian Media Academy, 2011. Edited by Alam. ISBN 9789843334442.
  • Ways of Life. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Drik Picture Library, 2014. Edited by Alam. ISBN 9789843383099. With an introduction by Rubana Huq.



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Safi, Michael (6 August 2018). "Photographer charged as police crackdown in Bangladesh intensifies". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  2. 1 2 3 Estrin, James. "Wresting the Narrative From the West". Lens Blog. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  3. Sarwar, Beena. "Here's why the Bangladesh government made a huge mistake by jailing Shahidul Alam". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  4. Karim, Elita (8 February 2008). "Changing the Face of Photography". The Daily Star. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "An Acclaimed Photographer in Bangladesh Says He Was Tortured". 2018-08-08. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Estrin, James. "Shahidul Alam: A Singular Voice in Photography for Dignity and Human Rights". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  7. "Chobi-Mela". Asia Pulse. United News of Bangladesh. 6 December 2004. Festival director for Chobi Mela Shahidul Alam presided.
  8. Fariha Karim (April 2009), Shahidul Alam, Nafas Art Magazine, retrieved 31 March 2015
  9. "Honorary Fellowships - RPS". Royal Photographic Society. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  10. Deutsche Welle. "DW Award: "The Bobs" names its winners for 2015". DW.COM. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  11. Gonzalez, David. "Where Death Squads Struck in Bangladesh". Lens Blog. Retrieved 2018-08-11.
  12. Gonzalez, David (16 March 2010). "Where Death Squads Struck in Bangladesh". The New York Times.
  13. Bayazid Akter (22 March 2010). "'Crossfire' exhibition sparks angry police reaction". Demotix. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  14. Rahnuma Ahmed (n.d.), Representing ‘Crossfire’: politics, art and photography, retrieved 31 March 2015
  15. "Re‐interpretations in Crossfire and the Global Voice of Resistance: An installation by Shahidul Alam". Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  16. 1 2 "Arts and human rights organisations denounce arrest of Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam". Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  17. Editorial (8 August 2018). "The Guardian view on Shahidul Alam: Bangladesh should let him go". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  18. 1 2 Arifur Rahman Rabbi (5 August 2018). "Photographer Shahidul Alam picked up from his home". Dhaka Tribune.
  19. "A Bangladeshi Photographer's Arrest Is a Worrying Sign for Press Freedom". Time. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  20. 1 2 "Joy: Shahidul Alam's claim of torture, another ill motive against govt". Dhaka Tribune. 2018-08-11. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  21. "Photographer Shahidul Alam jailed for comments on Bangladeshi government corruption – British Journal of Photography". Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  22. "Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam detained after post about Dhaka protests". Committee to Protect Journalists. 5 August 2018.
  23. "Journalists condemn abduction of renowned photographer Shahidul Alam". India Today. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  24. 1 2 3 "Pen International campaigner on arrest of acclaimed Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  25. "Bangladesh: Release Mr. Shahidul Alam immediately from arbitrary detention". News Ghana. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  27. "Statement from Australian academics urging the Government of Bangladesh to free RMIT University Adjunct Professor Dr Shahidul Alam - RMIT University". Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  28. "Joy questions demand to free photographer Shahidul Alam". Bdnews24. 2018-08-14. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  29. "Sheikh Hasina's Son Has Exposed the Deceit in the Case Against Shahidul Alam". The Wire. 2018-08-14. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  30. "Shilpakala Padak 2014 conferred". The Daily Star. 21 February 2015. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  31. "The Lucie Awards". Lucie Awards. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  32. "Drik, Pathshala founder Shahidul Alam wins Lucie Award". Dhaka Tribune. 21 June 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  33. Sun, The Daily. "Shahidul Alam selected for int'l photography award". Daily Sun (Bangladesh). Retrieved 2018-08-08.
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