The exhibition presents a newly discovered photographic treasure

A very interesting collection of photos taken by a relatively unknown GMME, Karim, contains images from the periods of undivided India, Bengal and Pakistan ranging from the late 1940s to the 1960s. Through his family, these are now featured in an exhibition in Dhaka and will be available in a photo book

October 14, 2022, 09:40

Last modification: October 14, 2022, 09:59

Random Harvests, organized by the Bengal Foundation. Photo: Saqlain Rizve


Random Harvests, organized by the Bengal Foundation. Photo: Saqlain Rizve

Originally from old Dhaka, GMME Karim never became a well-known photographer during his lifetime. But the recent discovery of extensive photographic documentation he created and preserved has fascinated photography and history buffs, leading to the ongoing “Random Harvests” exhibition, curated by the Bengal Foundation.

Born in 1919, Karim galvanized across undivided India, and later Pakistan, throughout the 1940s through the 1960s, which was also when he found his passion for photography. This earned him a Rolleiflex camera which he took with him – documenting everything he found interesting on his travels, including photos of tea workers, the construction of various sites, groups hard-to-reach ethnic groups in mountainous areas, among many others. subjects – and in the process to take very valuable and anthropologically significant photographs.

“When the Bengal Foundation asked me to be the curator of this photography exhibition, I unfortunately had no idea about Mr. Karim. When I started looking at his photo album, I literally found the Bengal, undivided and divided, 1940s to 1960s, preserved in his work,” said Samsul Alam Helal, the curator of the “Random Harvests” exhibition, which opened on September 9.

“If you look at Karim’s photos, you can see a comparison between where we were in the 40s, 50s and 60s and where we are today. In addition, you will also find the evolution and development of Bengal after the 1947 score in his photos,” Helal added. .

The 87 photographs on display, all taken between the 1940s and 1960s, include photos of the exploited Kaptai Lake, women working in the tea gardens, a singer in a village singing and playing the dotara, and the lifestyle of minorities ethnic hills areas among many other photos.

Karim also captured various family events, journeys to different parts of undivided India by train, forest and river journeys in the Sundarbans, Sylhet and Chattogram. The photos also include valuable images of famous structures like Shahbagh Hotel (currently Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical University), Adamjee Courtyard, Asad Gate, etc., which the photographer has carefully arranged and preserved with handwritten titles .

He also recorded videos with an 8mm camera. Three of these films, lasting seven to eight minutes each, exhibited at the event show excerpts from the photographer’s travels in the Sundarbans, Bandarban and parts of India.

Because of his reputation as an expert explorer, he was lucky enough to work for a Hollywood production. When some scenes from the famous film ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ (1956) were shot in Sylhet and Chattogram, Karim worked with producer Michael Todd and the film crew to help organize the shoot.

Karim, who died in 1999 at the age of 80, bequeathed the incredible treasure of his works to his family who finally made it public.

“We did not know the photographer GMME Karim. His works were presented by his son Iftekharul Islam. And when we saw Mr. Karim’s collection of photographs, we felt like we had traveled back in time. However, we decided that these works of Mr. Karim should be presented to the public,” said Luva Nahid Choudhury, chief executive of the Bengal Foundation.

Iftekharul Karim believes that the photographs taken by his father are amazing windows into the past and will be treasured for future generations.

Although the late photographer was not recognized for his work, he was noted for his contribution to pioneer tourism in the country. Karim played an important role in establishing the Tourism Authority in Dhaka in 1961.

He was one of two members of the only two wildlife expeditions conducted in Pakistan by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1966 and 1967, and was later appointed as an honorary consultant to WWF in Bangladesh in 1973.

Karim was a founding member of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Society of Bangladesh and an active member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The multi-talented photographer and explorer was also an official in Pakistan’s shooting contingent at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was instrumental in establishing the Bangladesh National Shooting Federation.

A photo book, also titled “Random Harvests”, featuring the exhibited photos, was unveiled at the launch of the exhibition, which is due to run until October 15.

Choice of TBS:

The TBS Picks presents three photos from the exhibition. All photos are undated, but were captured by GMME Karim from the late 1940s to the 60s.

Two workers collect tea leaves in a garden in Sylhet

Two workers collect tea leaves in a garden in Sylhet

Two workers collect tea leaves in a garden in Sylhet

Photographs of people from a minority ethnic group in the Chattogram Hill Tract area of ​​Bangladesh.

Photographs of people from a minority ethnic group in the Chattogram Hill Tract area of ​​Bangladesh.

Michael E. Marquez