Shahidul Alam is a photographer, journalist, teacher, curator and human rights activist from Dhaka in Bangladesh, with a successful career in photojournalism spanning almost 40 years. Shahidul is a name that he chose for himself at the age of 7, which translates to ‘Witness of the world’ - a name only appropriate for someone who has captured the many social changes the world has experienced through the lens of his camera.
Born into a family of academics, with his father being a microbiologist and his mother being a school teacher, he finished his PhD in Chemistry from the London University, where he also briefly got involved with the Socialist Worker’s Party and was introduced to social activism. With a newly discovered career interest in photography, he returned to Dhaka in 1984, where he documented the protests against General Hussain Muhammad Ershad. Since then, he has been an advocate for free speech and has captured many stories documenting the human-rights abuses and political turmoil in Bangladesh. In the fight against social injustice, photography became Shahidul's weapon of choice.
Shahidul is responsible for setting up transformative institutions such as Drik Picture Library, Drik Gallery, Pathshala South Asia Media Institute, Chobi Mela Photography Festival, and Majority World Agency. Through the medium of these institutes, he continues to empower the marginalised local storytellers and encourages them to take charge of their narratives as opposed to the lens of western media. As part of this mission, he also coined the term ‘majority world’ – a phrase he has used since the 1990s in place of third world countries and global south. He has also written 2 books that include My Journey as a Witness, which has been described by Life magazine as “the most important book ever written by a photographer” and most recently, his other book titled The Tide Will Turn, which was featured on The New York Times list of “Best Art Books of 2020.”
Earlier this year, Shahidul was appointed the Explorer At Large at National Geographic. His other notable achievements include winning the Shilpakala Padak, the highest cultural award given to Bangladeshi artists and in 2018, he received the Humanitarian Award from the prestigious Lucie Awards.