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INTERVIEW: Samdani Art Award 2012 Winner – Khaled Hasan


Embracing photography as a medium through which he can capture life, light and darkness, Samdani Art Award 2012 winner, Khaled Hasan (b. 1981), turned his enthusiasm for the camera into a career as a photographer in 2001.  Telling the narratives of the land that shaped him, Bangladesh, Hasan’s photographs cover a wide range of subjects; including stories about people and their interaction with nature, about healing and surviving, about fight for rights and toils for food, and about taking a stand against injustice.

A force that makes him think and feel more intricately, Hasan sees photography as an intrinsic part of his identity, helping him gain a much deeper understanding of human beings and life in general. Strongly believing that the work he makes should benefit others, Hasan is careful to ensure he makes a positive contribution to his own community—as well was those he documents—seeing himself as not just a photographer but as a socially responsible person. 

Now also working as a film maker alongside his photography, Hasan has participated in panel discussion organised by the National Geographic Society, Inter-Press Services, and others, to further express his cultural concerns.  Having recently released the shortlist of artists nominated for the Samdani Art Award 2018, we caught up with Hasan to find out more about his career, what inspires him, and what he has been working on since winning the Award in 2012. 


SAF:  You describe photography as a force that gives you a deeper understanding of human beings and life in general.  Could you explain how photography has changed your understanding of life and the way you experience it? 

KH:  I find it very difficult to explain exactly what I mean by this as it is something that is related to the practicalities of my everyday life. As a tool, photography has made it simpler for me to share my daily experiences, and gives me a very positive outlook on what is happening around me. For example, if you see a leaf that has dropped into a pool of water, it is a very normal scenario, but when I see it, I try to find the beauty by capturing the best visualisation of it through my camera. If anything, photography has taught me to see that every flower must grow through the dirt before it blooms.

However, if I am talking about how photography has changed my life as a human being, I would go as far as expressing that it is the best thing that has happened to me. When I was working on projects documenting a home for the old-aged, or with acid victims or valiant women, every single person I met during my documentation process taught me something, which, at the beginning of each project, was a something I did not expect.  Just listening to the hardships that each person had endured made me a stronger person. This might sound a little far-fetched, but if you have not experienced something like this personally, it would be difficult for you to understand exactly what I experienced during each of these projects.    

SAF:  Your early work concentrated on telling the narratives of your native country, Bangladesh.  Since moving to the USA, how have your new surroundings changed the way you work?

KH:  When I lived in Bangladesh, I was travelling all the time to different countries for my work, so I don’t feel that my move to the USA has changed the way I work as a photographer or the way I document my subjects. My passion for the work I make remains that same wherever I go, and the concepts I choose to work with are a bit like my shadows: they follow me wherever my work takes me. Although life in the USA is very different to Bangladesh, I maintain my own unique way of working which will not change because I am living in a new place: although I am trying to cut back on my travel to allow myself time to concentrating on improving my skills to add value to my career.

SAF:  Seeing yourself as not just a photographer but also as a socially responsible person, how do you ensure the work you make also has a positive contribution to the communities you document?

KH:  When I first started working as a photographer, it was a priority for me that the work I did would contribute to the communities I worked with, but I also knew that by working as a photographer and documenting other people’s experiences, I would be able to experience the lives of others in a way that most other people are never able to. The contribution I can make to other people’s lives through my work might be very minimal but I believe that every little bit of effort made contributes to a greater change.  I feel grateful that I am able to make the work I do, and that the images I create make other people think more deeply about what they can do to help change society for the greater good. 

SAF:  During your career has there been a community or subject that you have documented which has had a real impact on you as both a photographer and a socially responsible person, and if so, why? 

KH: All of the work I make stays close to my heart, and each and every image I shoot has its own individual impact. However, documenting residents in an old-aged home made me realise how cruel many people are to their parents and as someone who is very family orientated, it was difficult for me to accept the situation that many of the residents had been left to live with. If anything, the experience made me more responsible towards my own mother and the rest of my family. Although the old-aged home was a fairly depressing environment which could understandable make anyone feel very low, my time there increased my motivation to work harder as a photographer and help raise the residents’ voices through my camera.

SAF:  Can you tell us about the projects you are currently working on and what we can expect to see next? 

KH:  I am currently working on a project titled ‘Living Odd’ through which I am documenting both the past and present situations of Bangladeshi non-residents and immigrants living in the USA.  I want the series to capture the truth behind the mental trauma and various difficulties that many migrants go through to survive in unfamiliar surrounds while documenting the cultural gaps between different races in America. My other ongoing project is focused on women and aims to help visualise the many different characters o women—their appearance, uprising, depressions, beauty, aggression, loneliness, fear, revolution, frustration, and more—and is a project I am excited to see come to fruition.  As my documentation of the women I am working with grows, I can see how the project will be one of great strength. 

To find out more about the Samdani Art Award, Click Here