The Rubin Museum of Art in New York is currently showing “Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power,” the first comprehensive exhibition in the United States of the renowned Bangladeshi photographer, writer & activist.
The exhibition brings together works from his four-decade career, showing the breadth of his practice and impact in Bangladesh, across South Asia, and beyond.
“Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power” will run until May 4, 2020, rounding out the Rubin Museum’s year long exploration of power. “Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power” will feature over 40 photographs and ephemera including portraits, landscapes, and scenes of daily life, strife, and of resistance in the “majority world” —a phrase Alam has used since the 1990s to reframe the notion of the “third world” or “global south.”
This pioneering exhibition will provide visitors with a nuanced view of Bangladesh and South Asia, explores systems of personal and collective agency, and underscores the importance of self-representation, empowerment, and truth that Alam’s life and work embody.
While shining an unflinching light on major Bangladeshi tragedies as well as daily life, Alam’s images reveal a country and cultures often misunderstood and misrepresented.
The exhibition will also feature new work, including a 3D model of the prison wherein 2018 he spent more than 100 days behind bars for speaking out against the Bangladeshi government, as well as recent images taken after his release.
“I heard of the possibility to show my work at the Rubin through three layers of bars with noise levels of over 100 decibels. I was in jail, but the choice was clear: this was an opportunity not to be missed,” says Alam.
In addition to his powerful photographs, Alam’s global impact and importance as the conceptual architect of transformative institutions —Drik Picture Library, Drik Photo Agency, Pathshala South Asia Media Institute, Chobi Mela Photography Festival, Majority World Photos—and the regional solidarity he has been able to catalyse cannot be overstated and will be illustrated through the exhibition narrative.
Alam’s role as change-maker 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,the disenfranchised and misrepresented are able to tell their own stories.
This exhibition is organized by Curator Beth Citron, in close co-operation with Alam and with support from artists and photographers in Bangladesh.
Photography by Shahidul Alam and courtesy of The Rubin Museum of Art.