From My city of unheard prayers. © Sayed Asif Mahmud

Thanks to my dimin­ished hear­ing, I am for­ever excused from dis­cussing all the sub­tle and not so sub­tle dif­fer­ences that exist in elec­tronic music gen­res, where styles can be defined by count­ing the BPM, down to what hap­pens on each beat of the pre­dom­i­nanty 4/4 rythms. (Some­times sim­ply bring­ing down the beat rate from one known style to a much lower num­ber is already enough to coin your own vari­ety.) Look­ing at the fas­ci­nat­ing list of gen­res iden­ti­fied and described on Wikipedia (but not find­ing the quaint Syr­ian elec­tronic trance-jazz fusion on my speak­ers), I was sud­denly relieved to have found NOequiv­a­lent of this obses­sions to qual­ify, diver­sify, iden­tify and label in the land of pho­tog­ra­phy. How­ever, it would have been fun to invent a name for the hyp­notic and grainy pho­tog­ra­phy of Sayed Asif Mah­mud and oth­ers that are com­ing out of Bangladesh of late.


From Tobacco Tale. © Sayed Asif Mahmud


Although root­ing him­self in doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­phy, with — in that neutered lan­guage of the art grant speak — “a pri­mary inter­est in com­mu­nity issues and the urban envi­ron­ment”, Mah­mud is the author of images that rather lean towards much darker ten­den­cies of our per­cep­tion, as if want­ing to reach us beyond the clear light of rea­son­able argu­ments, at a more vis­ceral level, where the impact is stronger. If this to be doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­phy, I would love to read an equally broody arti­cle about Tobacco grow­ing in Bangladesh, and the impact it has on the farm­ers and their envi­ron­ment (served with some dry sta­tis­tics on the side.)


From Tobacco Tale.  © Sayed Asif Mahmud


I first encoun­tered work from his series My city of unheard prayers at the Metrop­o­lis exhi­bi­tion at the Noorder­licht photo fes­ti­val last Sep­tem­ber. Since my time lord, the Empty Quar­ter Gallery, is tak­ing over an edited ver­sion — open­ing this com­ing week! -, I had to take a very good, long look at all the works by the over 80 par­tic­i­pants of that mam­moth show, and some­how Mahmud’s work stuck, despite look­ing very casual, infor­mal and almost hap­haz­ardly com­posed at first sight. Hard to say what makes me say this, but I like the way it breathes. That goes even more for Tobacco Tale than for the work that was on dis­play in Gronin­gen, and now soon in Dubai and at the Museum of Eston­ian Archi­tec­ture in Tallinn, Esto­nia.


From Tobacco Tale.  © Sayed Asif Mahmud


Update 23/10: Here on Amer­i­can Photo Mag is another arti­cle reflect­ing with insight on Mahmud’s series My City of Unheard Prayers. Show­ing that maybe some prayers do get heard when hurled into the galac­tic echo halls of the internet.

Original link: http://www.beikey.net/mrs-deane/?p=6354

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