Discovering the Children of Bangladesh

In 1984, while visiting my family in Bangladesh during a vacation, I began photographing people there. It soon turned into a quest to rediscover my native country and, in the process, my childhood. Over the next twelve years, I returned many times to photograph the Bangladeshi people, specially the children. I found them to be accessible and friendly, and as I spent more time observing them and following their daily activities, my respect and understanding for them grew.

My work gravitated towards the children for several reasons. The most important was that they were completely enchanting. They had engaging personalities and beautiful smiles, together with a playful willingness to be photographed. The children I photographed came from all strata of Bangladeshi society.

Of course, life is not perfect for these children, specially those from poorer families. They often have to work to help support their families. But they seem to be very much in tune with nature and able to squeeze every drop of happiness out of life. Their strong family structures sustain and nurture them.

There have been many fundamental changes in Bangladesh since my childhood. It is much more crowded now. A positive change is that there are proportionately many more schools. Ten years ago, I could walk into a village and find many children playing in the fields and alleys in the middle of the day - but today they are most likely in class.

One striking discovery I made while photographing there is the contrast between the image of Bangladesh portrayed in the Western media, as being a hopelessly poor nation of helpless, even groveling people, and the reality that I encountered of a nation of decent people who must work hard every day to make a living and improve their lot. I hope these photos dispel some of the stereotypes.

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