Random Harvests: the photographic magnificence of GMME Karim

Photography is, most certainly, one of the most fascinating art forms, capable of capturing time and memories in a visual medium that we can look back on even years later.

Ghulam Murshed Mohd. Ehsanul Karim (GMME Karim), one of Bangladesh’s finest photographers, offers viewers and photography enthusiasts the opportunity to transcend the barriers of time and revisit the past through his solo photographic exhibition, “Random Harvests”, which is currently on display at the Shilpalay of Bengal.

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“Random Harvests”, named by GMME Karim himself, is a memoir of his photographic art. The walls of the Bengal Gallery are adorned with his versatile artwork. Karim’s original photo albums are on display, along with his badges and identity documents as a photographer. His precious Rolleiflex camera and the negatives of his photographs are also preserved and presented in the exhibition.

GMME Karim was born in 1919 in Old Dhaka. Driven by his passion for art, he traveled the Indian subcontinent with his Rolleiflex camera and photographed landscapes, nature, life, people and their livelihoods from the mid-1940s to the late 1900s. the sixties. Between 1946 and 1964 he recorded his travels through the forests and rivers of Sylhet, Chattogram, the Sundarbans and undivided parts of India.

In 1955, some scenes from the film “Around the World in Eighty Days”, based on the novel of the same name by Jules Verne, were shot in the remote hilly regions of Sylhet and Chattogram. With Michael Todd, the director, and Kelly, the director of photography; Karim was in charge of organizing the shooting.

In 1958, he was the first photographer to bring color photos to Bangladesh. Thanks to him, the first tourism organization in then East Pakistan was established in 1961. He was also a member of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Society and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The consequences of colonial rule in 1947 – the partition of India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) – with the birth of Bangladesh, as well as the generational trauma that invaded the minds of its survivors , had a great influence on the photographs of Karim – who considers himself a colonial subject.

Through the lens of his precious Rolleiflex, he shot snippets of beauty in the uncertainty of a fractured society and a struggling nation, still searching for its identity in the world.

The photographer was fully aware and responsive to his time, place and position in society and focused on maintaining a visual record of the landscapes, people and places around him.

Through the photographs of the exhibition, we can take a certain look at the postures of indigenous jute and tea workers, farmers, boatmen and tribal communities. The industrial growth of the 1950s in Bangladesh (then the newly independent eastern wing of Pakistan) also found a place in his work.

Karim’s photographs and videos bear witness to the collectivist socio-cultural milieu of the 1950s. His photographs do not recount the complexities of his time, rather he explains it through slices of travels, social orientations, outings and personal interactions of an extended family – which reveal new meanings of identities, to both new and old, at the cutting edge of the score.

Valuable images of famous structures such as Shahbagh Hotel (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical University), Old Airport, Adamjee Court, Asad Gate, etc. can be seen through Karim’s frames.

Photos of the construction of the Kaptai dam, as well as the tunnels for the turbines and the water flow, are also present in the gallery. However, the most intriguing photograph in the exhibit is of a musician playing a local musical instrument, while children indulge in pouring the roof in sync with the beat of his music.

Karim also captured several portraits of people, without any consideration of caste and creed. The life struggles and varied emotions of simple people in rural Bangladesh come to life through his photographs. Two gallery walls contain images of indigenous communities and their livelihoods in remote parts of Bangladesh. The graceful attitude and facial expressions of the tea garden workers are still vivid in her photos.

GMME Karim’s photography allows us to peek into the pre- and post-partition eras of this subcontinent. Her work is like a kaleidoscope of information and helps ensure that we can remember bold past events that affirm our nation’s identity.

This great exhibition is open to everyone and will take place in Bengal Shilpalay until September 15th.

Michael E. Marquez