MOU AYSHA – Humanitarian Photographer
“Striking yet soulful.
Raw yet extremely adept at her art.
Mou Ayesha from Bangladesh.
A visual artist tracing the face of the feminine through her lens.”
Mou Aysha is a humanitarian photographer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She loves to travel and seek to discover the unseen! She is mostly into portrait photography.
Here is Mou Aysha in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.
1) When you say Humanitarian photographer what do you exactly mean by it?
To me, humanitarian photography is to make a positive impact in the minds of the viewer and the lives of the people I photograph. This discipline of photography goes beyond just creating artistic images. Humanitarian photography tells us powerful stories of social issues and uses photographs as a catalyst for change. I use my photographs to tell stories of life – stories of pain, joy, loss, and hope, and then translate these stories into a call for empathy and action. I believe humanitarian photography should evoke emotions and create a human bond. Because of that, before every single photo I take, I spend a good amount of time with the people. I try to get as close as possible to them. I try to become one of them or at least be accepted in their presence. Only after that, I do start taking photos.
The people’s strength, dignity, love, is some of the qualities humanitarian photographers are devoted to capturing. I try to capture people in a true way, tell their story and transcend their circumstances. All of that without stripping the protagonists from dignity, despite the difficult situations in which they often find themselves. Showing them as someone equal in the world, worthy of admiration and respect. Since 2014 I am involved with GMB Akash Institute of Photography, and I have been contributing to the humanitarian activities of the institute as a volunteer for its social and altruistic projects that help 1’000s of unprivileged Bangladeshis every year. Being capable to work with GMB Akash for demanding social causes is a great achievement for me as a humanitarian photographer. There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes with the ability to make a positive impact with your art.
2) Is photography your main profession or did you ever dabble in other ideas and fields?
Photography is more of my passion than my profession. It means a lot to me personally and I find a great deal of satisfaction and challenge in this art. I do photography for myself to become a better human being every day. I have always loved people and have always wanted to learn about them from up close. People, their culture, their experiences, always have fascinated me since my childhood. I found out that photography gives me opportunities to go and learn about people and their journeys.
3) How easy or difficult was it to establish in this field in your country? Is being a woman a challenge in the field or an advantage?
I love to travel and seek to discover the unseen! I am on a journey to capture what I really love. As a female photographer, I have the privilege to go places that my male colleagues may find difficult. On the other hand, as a woman, it is more difficult here in Bangladesh to go out or visit certain sites alone to take photos. I always find it harder to work at night, and it can feel unsafe sometimes and I feel afraid. This is one of the biggest challenges I face. Working professionally as a visual female photographer is an everyday battle.
4) Tell us about your experience at the mentoring school with GMB Akash and whether you have had any other mentors
GMB Akash is the only master photographer with whom I studied. Honestly, I learned everything from him. I am lucky to be working with him and learning from him last eight years. His expertise and outstanding work have had a massive influence on my desire to continue with photography. He says, to be a good photographer first of all you have to be a good human being. What impresses me most about Akash’s work is that he goes beyond the art and actually helps the people he photographs through his humanitarian activities. We Bengalis are always proud to have such a master photographer like GMB Akash who has dedicated his life to the welfare of the people of Bangladesh. In 100 years only one photographer can be born like GMB Akash
5) Tell us something about your prints and places where you have been published.
I published worldwide in magazines and newspapers. I had exhibitions in many countries. But most importantly in my social media where I can reach so many people every day.
6) What is your take on Instagram and whether it has helped you?
Yes, thanks to my social network. Where I can easily share my work and motivate millions of photographs like me. Also, I can get inspiration from millions of other photographers too. Social media can have a hugely positive impact on spreading love and humanity.
7) Do you care to define the power of portraits and why that particular genre?
Since childhood, I have been fascinated with people and their faces. I grow up in the northern part of Bangladesh and from a young age, I saw a lot of people from the islands. Their faces were always different from other people I had seen. They were burnt with the sun, had a lot of scratches on their face and their eyes were red. All those faces grabbed my attention as a child, one of my main reasons to become a photographer was to capture those faces and bring more light to them. I wanted to share their beautiful and unique faces with others.
For me, a great portrait is one that you never can forget! A good portrait has to be technically sound and soul grabbing. As soon as you see the picture, you think that you know the person very well. You even understand the emotions and the feelings of the portrait, feelings that can stay with you for the rest of your life. For a great portrait, you need a great character with unique features. To coin a cliché, a great portrait is worth a thousand words. I have a special affection for portraits and have, therefore, produced an extensive series of them. Genuine smiles, emotions and people’s stories attract me the most. I want to capture the purest of emotions in my photographs.
8) Cliched but who is your favourite artists and photographers?
My favourite photographer is GMB Akash Steve McCarry and Dorothea Lange. I love and can learn different things from these three different master photographers every day. About GMB Akash I love his photography as much as his Humanitarian work. From Dorothea Lange, I love her photography as much as her philosophy. And I love Steve for his artistic masterwork.
9) What are your hobbies?
I am a big fan of nature. I love trees and rivers. I especially love roaming around small villages and seeing different ways of living which pique my curiosity and desire to travel as much as possible. Learning about travel and different cultures is something I do with a passion for reading as well as watching films including diverse populations and places.
10) When did this love affair with the camera start?
As I mentioned above, I was very curious about human faces from a very early age. Different kinds of light have seemed very interesting to me since my childhood. The morning light is different from the afternoon and the afternoon light is totally different from the evening light that I could differentiate even then. As a kid, I used to take pictures with my dad’s camera. I’ve always loved taking pictures of my family and friends. But honestly, as a kid, I never dreamed I would be a photographer when I grew up.
When I first saw Akash’s works on social media in 2010. I wanted to learn from him. I bought my first camera in 2012 and started workshops with GMB Akash. Since 2014 I have been doing photography continuously. I am 28 Year Old. And I would love to continue my photography till my end
11) Tell us something about the gear you use.
Most of the time I use Camera body: Canon 5D Mark 3 and Mark 4
Lens: 24-70 canon 2.8, 50 1.8, 35 mm 1.4, 70-200 2.8
12) Any suggestions for upcoming photographers.
Be honest and respectful to the people you photograph. Work very hard and take photos every day. Love your life and always be positive. Appreciate and be grateful for everything you have in your life!
13) An insight into some of your favourite portraits and projects and an overview of the upcoming ones?
‘Different colours of eyes in Bangladeshi people’ I have been working on a series last 6 years and am always in search of people who have different colours of eyes. This series of work and all those portraits are favourable to me. In the coming years, I want to publish my book with the best portraits that I have taken. I also want to do something for the people I photograph.
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