Samsul Alam Helal0
“My world is a world full of struggles” Samsul Alam Helal
Among the many exhibiting artists there are seven Bangladeshi photographers. So let’s introduce you to the home-grown talents. First up, Samsul Alam Helal.
“My world is a world full of struggles,” confesses Samsul Alam Helal, one of the seven Bangladeshi artists who are exhibiting at Chobi Mela VII. “Photography is no different, it is full of struggles.” Lean, with sunken eyes, and a patch of beard on his chin, Helal can be easily mistaken for a third-year student from Charukala (Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka). He comes off as forlorn yet sincere, invisible yet powerful – and there’s something about his presence that moves one to explore his thoughts. Having been brought up in a family where his brother owned a studio, photography came as a natural curiosity. On finishing his undergrads in Management, Helal realised his calling was behind a lens in a box. He received a scholarship from Pathshala South Asian Media Institute and without informing his family, began to take classes regularly. Over the span of three years he developed his unique voice, in his words – fictional photography.
“I enjoy representing reality in an alternate space. What we see isn’t necessarily the whole story, and when I take pictures, I try to delve into the fictional aspects of the story. A boy working at a roadside tong might be a movie buff, and if I photograph his story, I will try to explore his love for movies rather than his daily life,” explains Helal.
His work at Chobi Mela VII is an example of how he portrays the world. Aptly titled ‘Love Studio,’ Helal takes his audience on a magical journey through the lives of the people of Jurain – and beyond the ordinary everyday. He tells Tipu’s story, a young boy who is in love with actress Shahnaj and who is placed next to a life-size cardboard version of her in the studio. Tipu wouldn’t let go and in imperfect raw honesty, Helal photographs the passion and tension of a surreal, imaginary affair. In the studio in which he creates his stories, the characters are free to explore, become their true yet fictional selves. A truck driver turns into an action hero, twin sisters transform to Greek goddesses. Life is somewhere else.
“The trouble is always with balancing dreams with reality. I still struggle to make ends meet. I don’t like the corporate assignments because they leave the artists with little time to play with the concepts in their heads. I still need to do them to have enough financial freedom to do what I want to do,” says Helal. “The stories in ‘Love Studio’ are similar. They are about people who cannot live their dreams because of harsher realities. I tried to give them some breathing space to be themselves, and in the process, was able to give myself the liberating joy of being myself.”
The interview was conducted by Sabhanaz Rashid Diya