Shahidul Alam photographs on view at Asia Society Texas Center

 Asia Society Texas Center (ASTC) in Houston presents Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power, the first comprehensive U.S. museum survey of Shahidul Alam, the renowned Bangladeshi photographer, writer, activist, and institution builder and a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018. Through 60+ images and ephemera, the exhibition will show the breadth of Alam’s practice and impact throughout his four-decade career. The exhibition runs through Sunday, July 11, 2021 and admission is FREE.

Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power

The exhibition includes portraits, landscapes, and scenes of daily life, strife, and resistance in the “majority world” — a phrase Alam has used since the 1990s to reframe the notion of the “third world” or “global south.” The term also confronts the ways in which Western media continues to define how the majority of the world’s population — especially Bangladesh — is portrayed in relation to poverty and disaster.

This pioneering exhibition aims to provide visitors with a nuanced view of Bangladesh and South Asia, to explore systems of personal and collective agency, and to underscore the importance of self-representation, empowerment, and truth as embodied in Alam’s life and work.

“My introduction into photography was for political reasons,” states Alam. “It was social justice I was after and I recognized that photography was this powerful tool. And if I was going to fight, I would use the most powerful tools available. I took on photography but I’m not married to the medium. It’s social justice I’m after and I will use whatever tool that works at any particular time.”

While shining an unflinching light on major Bangladeshi tragedies and struggles, Alam’s images reveal a country and cultures often misunderstood and misrepresented. In addition to his powerful photographs, Alam has made an impact in Bangladesh, across South Asia, and even globally as the conceptual architect of transformative institutions, including Drik Picture Library, Drik Gallery, Pathshala South Asia Media Institute, Chobi Mela Photography Festival, and Majority World Photos. The regional solidarity he catalyzed cannot be overstated and will be illustrated through the exhibition narrative.

Alam’s role as changemaker is one he inhabits with equal resolve and energy. His belief in nurturing visual literacy has driven him to go beyond mere advocacy: Through the institutions he has built, he empowers the disenfranchised and misrepresented to tell their own stories.

Shahidul Alam (b. 1955, Dhaka, Bangladesh); Airport Goodbye; Dhaka Airport, Bangladesh; 1996; photograph; courtesy of Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World At Dhaka International Airport.

How to find the Asia Society Texas Center

  • Exhibition dates: Saturday, February 13, 2021 – Sunday, July 11, 2021
  • Admission: Free
  • Hours: Thursday–Friday, 11am – 4pm; Saturday–Sunday, 10am – 4pm
  • Location: Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Blvd, Houston, TX, 77004 (in the Museum District) 
  • More info:

About Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year for 2018, photographer, writer and human rights activist Shahidul Alam obtained his PhD in chemistry from London University before taking up photography.

Returning to his native country of Bangladesh in 1984, he campaigned to bring down autocratic General Hussain Muhammad Ershad. In his pursuit of social justice, he set up award-winning organizations: the Drik Picture Library (1989); the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute (1998); and Chobi Mela (2000), an international festival for photography. He also co-established the international photo agency Majority World.

In August of 2018, he was detained for peacefully expressing his views against his government’s repressive practices.

A speaker at Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Alam has had his work exhibited in MoMA and Tate Modern. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine, described his book My journey as a witness as “the most important book ever written by a photographer.”

About Asia Society Texas Center

With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the rest of the world. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.

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