Posted on Leave a comment

Bangladesh. Day 10- Transformation and Goodbyes

We took over the lobby at a 5-star hotel feeling a bit awkward, yet grateful, around the plush furniture, perfumed air and air-conditioning.  For 10 days, we had basically “roughed” it, guerilla style, with modest but comfy accommodations and simple, cheap street foods (aka: chicken biryani).  Now we all sat silently looking at our laptops, with our frothy $5 cappuccinos in hand, reviewing our photos to pick the best 20 to show the others.  It was the first time on the 10-day trip that I really looked at my photos.  I tend to enjoy this type of tantric photo review. As a habit, I never look at my pictures when I take them. Being a bit old-school, I prefer to pretend my digital camera is a film camera and still enjoy the “surprise” of the images when the “film” gets “developed”. 

As I relived the trip through my photos, I reflected on the change of my personal attitude and my unwarranted anxieties. Ten days ago, I was positive I was going to encounter the worst of humankind but my experiences could not have been more removed from that.  The apprehensions that had plagued me for weeks and had kept me awake for nights had disappeared.  The “murders and thieves” were anything but, in fact, I found the Bengalis to be some of the nicest, most curious people I have ever met. Neither hostile nor indifferent to my presence but, in actuality, happy that I was there and as curious about me as I was about them.

As I chronologically reviewed the over 8000 pictures I took, I was happy to see a clear evolution of my images and storytelling.  I noticed that the mistakes and poor shooting choices I made on Day 1 were progressively more absent as the days went on.  The number of “rejected” shots became smaller and smaller and my photos became more deliberate. My images showed my transformation to a more mature, patient and discerning photographer.  I was tired, exhausted but with the kind of exhaustion that made you feel good, content, like you had done something important.  I learned so much and made great friends.  Etienne, was right– this was Mecca, the Holy Land, the Promised Land of photographers.

I boarded the plane, richer in experience, richer in art and with all my vital organs.


November 27- December 4, 2019

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts. It even breaks your heart. But that’s OK. The journey changes you. It should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, in your heart, and on your body. You take something with you and hopefully you leave something good behind.”

Anthony Bourdain

P.S.- Thank you so much for taking the time to follow me during this amazing adventure. If you are interested in doing this trip (or similar in many locations around the world) please contact my good friend Etienne at (I have no financial affiliation).  If you would like to invite me over for dinner to discuss the difference between travel photography and street photography I’d be happy to attend – just promise me you won’t serve chicken biriyani.

Posted on Leave a comment

Bangladesh. Day 9- “A spot of tea?” and Black Lung Disease

We descended on them like a pack of wolves. We fanned out, downwind and up-light with cameras at the ready.  We pounced. The poor women didn’t see us coming.  Being a group of 5 photographers it was always tricky to shoot candid shots, unobstructed. 

The Finley Tea plantations, in the area of Sreemangal, were breath taking. But we only came across a few women harvesting tea leaves (wrong season? Wrong time of the day?). We danced around each other, photographer around woman, photographer around photographer- like a fiddler’s do-si-do, trying to get the best angles without being in each other’s shots.  An intricate dance indeed.

Later on, eyes peeled to the horizon for smoking stacks of brick factories, a seemingly favorite subject of ours, we finally found a massive one full of activity.

 Rounding the corner of the kiln, I came across two young men shoveling and grinding big chunks of coal into the coal dust that would be used to stoke the kiln fires. With only filthy head wraps to protect them, so much coal dust was pouring out from the 3-walled corrugated iron shack that you could hardly see them.  I have never seen worse working conditions in my life. 

The coal dust was so oppressive that I was only able to tolerate the confines of the small hut for a few short minutes before having to run out for fresh air. The thought did not escape me that these poor men will probably spend the rest of their working lives in there…serious lung disease awaiting.