Bangladeshi photographer Gazi Nafis Ahmed sees his country as a place faced with numerous intractable social challenges. The London Guidhall University graduate's observations compel him to document these issues through photography, in the hope of raising awareness, both at home and abroad.
His latest series, Made in Bangladesh, focuses on the country's clothing manufacturing industry — recently the subject of international headlines after a series of fatal fires in its notoriously unsafe factories. The series looks at working conditions for garment workers, predominantly women, who brave hazardous work environments to earn the paltry wages that allow them (barely) to make a living.
Currently Ahmed is a part of New York City's VII Photo Agency Mentor program, in which emerging photojournalists pair up with a VII member photographer who acts as a mentor and provides guidance for professional development. This series and many of his other projects are showcased on the agency's website.
Asia Blog reached out to Ahmed through email to find out more about his work.
What inspired you to pursue this series?
Fashion and style have always inspired me. I was seven, I remember and one morning when I was on my way to the school. I was in a car and I could see the female garment factory workers going somewhere. I asked my mom, "Who are they?" and "Where are they going?" The curiosity kept pushing me. I had to get inside their life and document it. I have spent four years on this project and will continue working on it.
Given the controversies surrounding garment factories in Bangladesh, did you have any difficulties getting access?
I did not have any difficulties getting access.
What is your most memorable moment from the shoot?
I was photographing 12-hours-old Ria. Her mom Khadija didn't get maternity leave from work. She didn't want her daughter to have a similar life. Her dreams were simple — to get nutritious food, healthcare, shelter and a good education for Ria.
What do you hope to achieve with this photo series?
I feel I have achieved something, when a viewer seeing my photographs carries an image in their mind. It stimulates a consciousness. My intention is definitely not to shock or bore the audience.
Where will your camera take you next?
One of the projects that I have been working on is about urbanization. It's a study of how urban areas depend on rural areas and the other way around.