Nasir Ali Mamun

Bangladesh

‘The Poet with The Camera'

Photographs of Nasir Ali Mamun/Photoseum (1972-1982)

I was ignited by the gravity and dreams of photography as an unhappy child who began life in struggle in the 1960s. Despite devouring photographs in newspapers, it was an insecure journey towards becoming an image-maker, with no training. I borrowed a camera for two hours in 1966, and exposed a few frames of my elder brother. The first click felt like pressing planet earth.

A fan of great personalities since childhood despite being a reclusive teenager, in 1972, I inaugurated portrait photography in Bangladesh. It was just after the liberation war. Most of our creative photographers were rooted in nature. Portraits were less important and relatively less known. 

Everywhere was burning in the 1970s; it was a time of high oil prices and food crisis. Even after the Vietnam War, conflict was elsewhere. People were going hungry. In 1969, man landed on the moon. Astronauts took portraits of earth. It was an exciting yet unsettling time for human civilisation. I wanted to travel to a new frontier.

The new direction for portrait photography was ignored. Most people didn’t realize the power of portrait photography. I wanted them to inhabit the essence of portraiture, its directness. It was difficult to prepare famous people to sit in front of my poor camera. I said: “From now on, the studio comes to your doorstep. I’ll take your images and make you a superstar!” Gradually, it worked. 

I do not press the camera shutter, the hard-disk of my heart exposes moments to produce photographs which are invaluable for people, history and time.