Archive for October, 2009

Street stories

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Catie and I have been slowly expanding our experience of Chittagong, taking walks and small trips around different parts of the city. I continue to be amazed as I carry my camera with me on the streets at the sheer number of opportunities there are to create beautiful images. I feel like no matter where I turn there is always something or someone asking for a photograph (sometimes literally) and with potential to be magnificent.

There were two recent moments from our city meanderings that I wanted to write about in particular. Both occurred in New Market, an area which I don’t know much about besides that it includes a huge mall (which I still haven’t been into) and a vast number of street vendors and shops. Recently Catie and I went there on a late afternoon and (since the mall was closed) walked around the streets and looked at the variety of items for sale including posters, jewelry, clothes, shoes, CDs, toothbrushes, and just about anything else you could think of.

Both notable moments happened though before we even started walking the streets. As we were getting our bearings on the sidewalk after we got out of our CNG, I saw a man sitting on the ground begging for money in some gorgeous afternoon light. I wanted to get a photo of him but I didn’t want it to be a one-sided exchange, so I got out a few coins and walked over to give them to him and then take my shot. I started to do so and realized during the process that he was probably completely blind. After I handed him the money, I backed off and started to get ready to take the photo, but suddenly I realized that I had already attracted a lot of attention on the sidewalk that had just a moment ago been completely empty. Unfortunately my camera’s line of sight was perpendicular to and stretching all the way across the sidewalk, so anyone who might’ve walked by immediately stopped and added on to the crowd around us. I quickly took the best photo I could before the mob blocked all the light and obstructed my frame.

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)

Photo taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on October 23, 2009.

At this point there were probably 20 people (all men I think) standing right next to me, but I decided to try and get one more closer angle. As I changed positions and framed and took my next shot, one of the men stepped towards my subject and pushed him a bit, trying to “do me a favor” and get the old blind man to look towards me. I found this to be very upsetting, and I stopped shooting immediately and got up and walked away. I wish I could have said something in apology to the man before leaving. Maybe he’ll be there again the next time I go to New Market and I can give him some more money or food. I just hate that I went into the situation consciously attempting to have a good even exchange between the two of us, but ended up getting him harassed by some jerk guy.

My other New Market story is from just a few minutes later but has a more comic theme. I was fiddling with a few controls on my camera while Catie was on her cell phone, trying to pretend like I wasn’t feeling suffocated by the large group of men surrounding me, when one man stepped forward and gestured towards a boy standing nearby (who I assume might have been his son). He motioned for me to take a picture of the boy, so I obliged, stepped over, framed the photograph and pressed the shutter. The man wanted to see the shot so I pulled it up on the LCD display and showed him the back of the camera.

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)

Photo taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on October 23, 2009.

The man looked for a moment with a critical eye, and then frowned and shook his head. He pointed to the empty space on the right of the frame and said “noo, no good” and unmistakably gestured his distaste. I couldn’t help but laugh and asked “no?” to which I got another definitive “no!” followed by a motion that I interpreted as his telling me that I should have captured the boy’s entire body. And then he simply walked away! I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a “client” express such strong dissatisfaction for my work. I guess you just can’t win ‘em all! I like the photo still anyway. But then again maybe there is too much empty space on the right… Or perhaps I overdid the dutch angle. This man has me questioning myself!

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 9, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 23, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 26, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 26, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 26, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 26, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 26, 2009)

Photos taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh between October 9-26, 2009.

Inaugural Bengali sickness, and the inevitable effect

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Last Monday I had the pleasure of experiencing my first real taste of Bengali sickness as I woke up in the morning with that distinct “I think I might throw up today” feeling. I proceeded to throw up four times, get extremely dehydrated, and develop a 103 degree fever will spare you the details, but after one particularly rough day and two more uneventful bed-ridden ones I found myself able to walk steadily enough around the apartment again. One result of this lovely episode (in addition to sadly missing a planned second trip with Mow to the Chittagong slums) was that I became extremely shaggy. Catie’s been really busy working lately so in a moment of desperate boredom I decided to finally do something about my appearance, and make the most of the chore in the form of another stop-motion video.

Candles, kids, and a sacrificial goat

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

We recently celebrated the holiday of Diwali by visiting and spending a couple evening hours hanging out at a nearby Hindu temple. There was plenty to see (including a goat that mysteriously arrived at one point) and though there were a lot of people coming and going, the atmosphere felt very relaxed. We watched visitors to the temple light and place candles on the ground in a space open to the night sky for a while, and then we sat in the center of the temple and did a bit of people-watching. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for us to be surrounded with people who were far more interested in us than the other way around. Catie, Denise, and Sarah were a hit with all the Bengali kids while I met and talked with a number of men (as it always seems to happen in this country). A few guys sat and spoke with me for quite a long time, and with the exception of a travel agent who would not stop pestering me, I enjoyed the conversation a great deal.

One of the young men I met was named Alpon, and though he couldn’t have been older than I was, it turned out he was actually a priest of the temple. His dad was a priest there as well and his little brother (who was playing “find the two taka bill” with Denise) will be too someday. Hindu priesthood is clearly the family business. Alpon told me about the holiday and explained what some of the celebratory things around us all meant (including the fact that the aforementioned goat would be sacrificed at midnight). He was very nice and extremely generous, offering sodas to us and insisting on paying for a few posters of Hindu gods that Catie and I were looking at on our way out.

I also happened to learn that in addition to his priestly title, Alpon has managed to become the self-proclaimed “pool champion of Bangladesh”. He told me that he’s usually at the billiards club around 4:00 pm, so I’m planning on meeting him there sometime (and taking that priest down).

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 17, 2009)

Photos taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on October 17, 2009.

The slums of Chittagong

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Recently I had the distinct luck and pleasure to accompany an AUW student Mow to a few of the slums in Chittagong. She grew up here and is doing a journalism project on the lives of the residents of these parts of the city. I’ve been trying for a while tonight to figure out how to eloquently write about my experience, but everything I come up with just seems to fall short. Her project is going to continue for a while though and I’m planning on tagging along each week, so I should have many more opportunities to find the right words. For now, I’m going to rely on my images for illustration. It was easily my favorite day photographing in years. This is why I came to Bangladesh.

I should give a little basic info though about where the photos were taken. We first went to a slum community that surrounds the train tracks in town. We visited a sub-community there and were shown around some of their accommodation. After that we went to a school nearby and spent time in a classroom. Later on we visited a slum which I guess is known as a center of drug activity, and finally we went to a refugee camp. Overwhelming, to say the least.

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 11, 2009)

Photos taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on October 11, 2009.

Apartment updates

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

We’ve been busy the last few weeks “decorating” our apartment. It was feeling a little drab and hospitalish so we’ve been trying to think of ways to cosy the place up a bit. We bought a few buckets of paint for starters along with some lamps from the grocery store. The perpetual creative fountain that is Catie Miller also had the idea to make colored sconces for our bare wall light bulbs out of wire and paper mache. She finished her two before my one so she also made three beautiful cards to put on the wall. (And her reward was chocolate cake.)

In the meantime, the men in our building have been busily working away on the elevator. I opened our apartment door one day to find a shower of sparks flying into the hallway a few feet in front of me. Naturally, I grabbed my camera. Update: Apparently the elevator is finally finished as of just a few hours ago!

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 3, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 3, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 4, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 5, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 5, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 5, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 5, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 15, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 15, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Oct 5, 2009)

Photos taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh between October 3-16, 2009.