Jashim Salam: The Quarantine Chronicles
Jashim Salam is an internationally renowned freelance photojournalist, documentary photographer, photo editor, educator and curator.
He has been covering a wide range of photographic assignments for national and international press, magazine, news agency, NGO, INGO, corporates, industrial, media and many development and charitable organizations for the last 15 years.
He is one of the co-founders of ABSURD photo agency in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as well as the founder of Chittagong Institute of Photography (CIP) in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Nowadays, what does the title of a socially engaged photographer or a social photo-documentarist represent to you ?
I am not only believing in the creative aspect of photography, but also the social aspect of this art form. I believe I can raise awareness and address problems in society through photographs. We live in a society where there is injustice and oppression. There are so many people in our society who are marginalized like migrant workers, handicapped people, underpaid laborers and climate refugees. I want to present their stories through social documentaries and portraits.
You have been known for your projects and collaborations worldwide, including the work for almost every press institution today like the Washington Post, The Guardian, Vanity Fair, New York times and many others.I was deeply touched by your series of photos treating the subject of the coronavirus pandemic, or to be more precise, photos of your family members in isolation. How did this start and can you please give us your take on the current situation happening in Bangladesh through your photo work ?
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Social distancing and keeping away from each other is somewhat impossible even socially and culturally. People used to live together in a joint family for generation after generation.
When the lockdown started here on March 26,2020 due to coronavirus, many didn’t understand the concept of staying home for a long time.
Even my family members didn’t realize that and they were unable to think about the social distance and keeping at least a meter apart from each other.
They feel as if they are in prison, without social activities and going out they are bored, children are restless as they don’t have school during lockdown.
As a visual storyteller I tried to portray them in a way they are feeling the same, regardless of their age. Children to elderly people, men and women feel alike. Wearing face masks, staying apart and talking from distance, even not seeing each other even though living in the same building is quite unusual for them. Every house became a prison and every person became a prisoner in the time of Corona to save themselves and to save others.
I portrayed my family members in mug shot style portraits wearing face masks which is the visual representation of home prison and we are the prisoners in this Covid-19 era all over the world. I have also included essentials of a still life which became very important in this Covid-19 Pandemic.
What is the most important change in your work during this pandemic times?
I find myself as a storyteller and photography is a medium to convey my story to the audience. The essence of human emotions and the surrounding story are important, not necessarily being the hard core content of the story. Trivial, still life and even daily life of our surroundings is getting significant attention which we ignore normally. Engaging myself to explore life in different ways and ideas is the important part of my creative process, as well as how to execute it as a visual storyteller. Aesthetically, I try to simplify my work during the process.
What are your hopes/predictions for the world once we get out of this pandemic crisis ?
We need to live in harmony with nature and our environment. Every little thing is part of nature and equally important. We have to stop destroying it. I hope we will get a better world by learning from this pandemic.
More about Jashim's work:
I would like to start to say, thank you both of you, my dear Ana for the idea of this interview and Jashim Salam for sharing your work and more than that, your 'home', your family and their feelings.
Social distance is also for me one of the most biggest contradictions of life.
Our society work for millions of years for a world without borders and for the development of a united society and for a world with based in cultural exchanges, et
c etc. It's difficult to understand what's going on....but...
Let's try to keep our minds safe and healthy.