GMB Akash is a socially engaged documentary photographer and an award winning photojournalist, focusing on people on the edge of society. He has covered sensitive topics such as child labour, prostitution and the tough reality of seasonal workers throughout Asia. He has won numerous awards and his work has been published in countless magazines worldwide. His work is very much appreciated as it shows the strength and resilience of human beings.
1. You are one of the best and most inspirational photographers from Bangladesh. What is it that motivates you?
Coming from a background where there was little space for adopting a creative process created difficult circumstances for me. People around me had no idea about photojournalism. At that time parents supported you even if you wanted to be an artist, illustrator or an actor/singer. But ‘photojournalist’ did not exist in the circles I was brought up in. Many days I did not eat to save my pocket money for my photography. I used my tuition to buy films. Even some time when I had no film in my camera and had no money in pocket, I never stopped clicking. I kept clicking knowing I had no film inside my camera. Because I know I had to achieve my dream. Nothing could stop me except myself, so I kept walking. And still now every day I dream to achieve my dream.
2. How do you prepare yourself to a particular photo shoot?
I move from here to there. In any of my projects I never show my camera first, I mix with people, I try to become one of them. I travel randomly even a single place only to grab their story inside me. My main concentration is to focus on people who are suffering eternally and dying everyday in the struggle for life. Countries which are similar to mine carry moreover the same scenarios. I think in every country all those sufferers are living the same life; whatever the culture is but the pain is as same and plain as others. I go for covering all hardship of lives around the world. Any human story which strengthens me is my project. I am in an endless journey towards an infinite route, only to find a real world of humanity. This thirst is eternal. I will keep walking, touching every face I drop through my lens. I will show the world – those unknown stories of sufferings. If a single hand comes to give them a shade that will be the real honor to my sweat.
3. Most of your pictures document the routine of poor people in developing countries like Bangladesh. How do you think your work affects their lives?
My photographs made me a better human being. I encountered such incredible stories that changed me entirely. It’s given me the power to reach millions of hearts. More importantly, it enables me to help hundreds of people who I meet in my journey. I dedicated my second book ‘Survivors’ to the survivors who are in my photographs. I gifted businesses to these survivors’ families which are challenging them to bring a better tomorrow. We together fight against the poverty and with my financial help 26 families won over their hunger and acute poverty. The entire income from my photography school First Light Institute of Photography goes to giving education to unprivileged children. We reached more than 500 children so far. In my career I am often faced with one question which is asked by me and by audiences: what have I done for the people who I photographed? Obviously telling their tale is my main job but still year after years of seeing their same circumstances I felt depressed and hated the situation. I started helping survivors, street children, homeless people and elderly citizens. I believe it is my duty as a photographer to point my lens in the face of deprivation and also offer a hand to the people who are dying without help. This is the best reward I get from photography that opens my heart and lets me give love as well as give whatever resources I have.
4. Which artist inspires you the most?
James Natchway and many more who ask the world to wake up.
5. As a winner of many awards, how important is it to be recognized as an artist?
I have received more than 100 international awards so far. My works were also published in more than 100 prestigious magazines and newspapers. My exhibitions have held all over the world. Recognition always works as great inspiration but appreciation from people is like inspiration for more achievements. Awards inspire me to go ahead. But my main award is when I reach to the people with my stories and open up a path to bring positive changes on those fates less people’s lives.
6. I see images from you on social media every day. Where do you get so much motivation from?
When people tell me I pierced their hearts with my photographs or that I moved them, these are so much inspirations to go ahead. I feel it’s positive when after seeing these photos people take a step, even realizing their situation can help. I believe many of us are definitely indebted to them who are working for us in bad conditions. One day we will all gather against such crimes. Children will go to schools instead of factories; no more parents will sell their daughter in brothels. Yes, I am doing my part and I will do until voices raise and hands come out. The important thing to me is that I am in fight to change it. And already I am finding many people beside me in this cause. I am grateful that all my friends from all around the world always have enjoyed going through my sphere.
7. What new projects are you working on?
I am working on my upcoming book, ‘Angels in Hell’. I plan to publish this photo series in the form of a book and will try to use it as a source of continual funding for our unprivileged children’s’ education. We believe that when many small people in many small places do many small things, they can change the face of the world.
8. You are on Horyou, the Social Network for Social Good. What does to Dream, Act and Inspire mean to you?
Dream – Reason of life Act – Fight for dream Inspire – People who are fighting for life with a smile
Written by Sushma Brelle