Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – 7 August 2020

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – Bangladeshi photojournalist Mohammad Shahnewaz Khan, founder of Voice of Humanity and Hope (VOHH) Festival turns the camera on himself and his young family during lockdown. It’s an extraordinary intimate and honest portrayal. Here he shares his thoughts and pictures. And if you haven’t done so already, please check out the second video interview in our new monthly series Photojournalism Now: In Conversation with Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Renée C. Byer.

Photo Essay – Life in a Cage

Mohammad Shahnewaz Khan

For a time it seemed that I could no longer be worldly, It would have been better if there was no family, I want to escape from family life, I am stuck, I want to be free from all family ties. Chittagong, Bangladesh. 05/20/2020

“In Bangladesh, we held our breath and prayed our impoverished, overpopulated country would somehow be spared from yet another disaster, but when the government enforced a nationwide lockdown on March 26th, 2020 we found ourselves homebound as though we were living in a cage. Today, we still are fearful to leave our home or allow others to visit. “Life in the Cage” is a visual personal project about my family and me. It documents the interaction of our relationships during these ongoing pandemic days in our home in the coastal city of Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Enjoying the last afternoon light with Imran, he asked me where is the Sun? In these difficult pandemic times I tried much to spend more times with my kids. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/29/2020
I have two kids, and two of my younger brothers also have children. During this time, the kids are restless and out of control, always trying to go out and crying all the time. I just try to make them happy. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/13/2020
Negar, Hussein and Imran spoke regularly to their grandparents, and uncle, through video call. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/14/2020
Day after day, month after month, the housebound children go through mental and physical problems. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/17/2020.
We are so close and so far away. Missed those days, hopefully it will back again. With various worries, tension, loneliness and I are alone among all, I can’t anymore, and I’m numb. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/07/2020
I can see myself, Inside of the heavenly Buraq, which is neglected and lying down in the rooftops of my house. Yes I’ve found the story of my life and I’ve found the motivation to survive. I’ve taken many pictures and told many stories in my photographic life. But for the first time, whenever I stand in front of my own camera, as if I’ve lost my temper, I forgot how to take pictures. Just then, yes then, as if I had discovered myself inside the toy of my kids, which is neglected and lying down in the rooftops of my house. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/14/2020

“I have spent my entire career as a photojournalist documenting the struggles of others for the world’s major news publications and teaching and mentoring other aspiring photojournalists. Now, for the first time, I stood in front of my own camera. I struggled to focus my lens on my own story, embracing the power of photography as a motivation to survive. This new experience felt awkward and at times uncomfortable. My photographs show slivers of our daily life, hope, disappointments, expectations, loneliness, frustration and fears. Our joys overshadow the uncertainties we face. These months in isolation have also explored my relationship with my wife, Negar and our children, Hossain and Imran. I was able to observe my family closely, and I’ve discovered my weaknesses deeply. While struggling to capture this moment in history, I dreamed of a downpour in the desert. I felt as though I was drowning and tried to stay alive through our story.

Negar is trying to touch the raindrop. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/24/2020
After intense heat it was raining a little after many days. My wife Negar was running and went to the roof, Hussein and I followed her. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/24/2020

“I and my brothers Arman and Ataul live with their wives and children in the same building as a joint family; it’s a great source of support. But, in my society, a man is taught not to speak about his own worries, which at this time are many. During the lockdown, our children became ill with fever, coughing, shortness of breath linked to allergies. We were afraid to seek treatment because of fear of being infected with the Covid-19 virus. We tried home remedies. In fact, my wife and I really had no choice. Our regular familiar family doctor has been absent from his clinic for over two months. It was terrible, because of unavailable health treatment in Bangladesh. Patients aren’t getting treatment, even those who aren’t corona patients are dying without treatment because of panic.

My child Imran (22 months old), was ill several times during this Lockdown period. Fever, cold, cough, shortness of breath and allergies. Which is seasonal flu and due to overheating, but it’s a terrible panic for us, because of unavailable health treatment in the country. Here we tried to make home treatment. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/19/2020

“As each day passed, our fears grew as we listened to the reports of the rising numbers of those infected and the lives claimed. Our rooftop satellite dish caught images on our television showing so many other countries far more advanced and supposedly economically secure than Bangladesh digging graves. It was hard to imagine we were not watching a war.

On the roof, Negar is embracing and enjoying with Imran during number ten warning signal of super cyclone ‘Amphan’. Despite Imran being ill, we took him to the roof for a short time to stop his crying and our city Chittagong was safe from cyclone attack. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/19/2020
Daily night of Ramadan…we are waiting for Sehri. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/12/2020

“A recent survey has found that 72.6% Bangladeshis are suffering from insomnia, Covid-19 has a significant detrimental effect on the mental health and psychological well-being of the people of Bangladesh. The money my wife had hidden away for potential disasters is now almost gone, but we pool together our strengths. “Life in a Cage” is intended to capture our resilience.” Mohammad Shahnewaz Khan

I took Hossain to the pharmacy wearing a mask. On the way back, a flowering tree caught his attention, because I once told him it’s sweeter to drink the water that comes out of its back from these flowers of the tree. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/11/2020

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