These photos continue my exploration of the children of my native country, Bangladesh. When I started photographing there in 1984, I was drawn to the children by their exuberance, rediscovering my native country and my childhood in the process. I encapsulated this happy discovery elsewhere. The photos on this page were also taken during the same explorations. In them, I have tried to better understand the lives of these children, including their everyday realities, their relationships, and the hopes that keep them going, sometimes under adverse circumstances.
I found that for many Bangladeshi children, reality is harsh. Once I started looking at the sobering economic circumstances, despair could quickly set in. I realized that while growing up there, I had insulated myself from these thoughts. Now, looking with fresh eyes, I could ask difficult questions, "Will this child ever get a break in life?", or, "How many calories does she consume every day and how many does she use up?"
One thing that consistently nagged me was the sight of children who are working at the time they should be at school. The reasons they work - as well as the kinds of work they engage in - are varied and complex. But no matter what the causes, whenever I saw a child working when he or she should be learning or playing or spending time with family, I felt that a childhood was irretrievably lost. Ironically enough, the children themselves often seemed oblivious to this loss.
Surprisingly, even though many circumstances were grim, I often found hope lurking around the corner. The personalities of these children are resilient, reflecting a boundless optimism for a better future. They apply ingenuity into squeezing every drop of joy out of life. Camaraderie and family support nourishes them. Another reason for hope is the construction of many new schools by non-governmental agencies. These schools are usually sensitive to the economic needs of the pupils and their families. So they are able to attract many students.
Thus, while exploring the lives of the children of Bangladesh, even though I encountered many situations that could lead one into despair, I came away with a renewed respect for these children and how they take on life. [ik]
Return to Ihtisham's top page.