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Anwar Hossain: The man who documented a war, while fighting in it

  • Published at 09:57 pm December 15th, 2018
Anwar Hossain's photo of 1971-1
Photo: Courtesy: Anwar Hossain Foundation

Dhaka Tribune Showtime contacted film critic and activist Mahmudul Hossain today to get some insights about the photos Anwar Hossain took during the Liberation war 1971

Anwar Hossain (left) took few photos of himself during Liberation War. The photo on the right shows him with his friend and fellow freedom fighter Azad | Courtesy: Anwar Hossain Foundation 

Anwar Hossain is truly a legendary photographer and a celebrated cinematographer. However, something that does not get highlighted is the fact that he was also a freedom fighter in the Liberation War of 1971.  He was a true artiste in his field, as he remembered to take photos in spite of all the traumas, worries and excitements of the war he was fighting.

Dhaka Tribune Showtime contacted film critic and activist Mahmudul Hossainyesterday to get some insights about the photos Anwar Hossain took during the Liberation war 1971.

Mahmudul told Dhaka Tribune Showtime: “Whatever ‘modernity’ we have in Bangladesh’s photography, Anwar Hossain was the pioneering figure of it all. His photographs are worthy of graduate studies. Photographers always look for ‘rational sensibility’ in the subjects they photograph. We, as in Bangladeshi photographers, were first able to first grasp ‘rational sensibility’ from the photos Anwar Hossain tookof the Liberation War period. 

A human skull found at the Shahbag area of Dhaka after the Liberation War, taken by Anwar Hossain in 1972 | Courtesy: Anwar Hossain Foundation

“The Liberation War took place during Anwar Hossain’s youth. Each photo he took during Liberation War represented ‘monumental’ moments in simplistic settings. To elaborate, if you take a close look at each of the photos he took, you will notice that each subject is ‘monumental’ for our nation’s history; almost so much so that the photos can automatically be considered ‘classic.’ Yet the content of the image is very simple.This is the signature of ‘modernity.’ Modern photographs try to show something monumental through very simplistic content. Anwar Hossain showed ‘modernity’ in one of his earliest works (photos of 1971).”

Regarding Anwar Hossain’s patriotism Mahmudul said: “He loved his country. His love for his country is embedded in each of his photographs. The emotion he is trying to evoke through his images is very ‘controlled,’ sophisticated and polished. Rather than free-flowing emotional elements, that sometimes gets scattered and does not contain the essence of artistry, Anwar Hossain’s photographs had sophisticated emotional elements. 

“In the photos he took during Liberation War, Anwar Hossain infused elements of sadness, love for his country, commitment, and respect towards the freedom fighters. However, the elements are just not limited within the frames. He can capture the vision of the people looking at the photos in such a way, that the person can get ‘rationally’ involved with the photo. At that point a Bangladeshi will not just look at the image as another Liberation War photograph; he will look at it as art. A foreigner, with a connection to Bangladesh, will also perceive it as art.  Monumental images with simplistic content! That is the essence of Anwar Hossain’s wartime photography” Mahmud added.

This iconic photo, that shows the freedom fighters of 1971 celebrating independence, was taken by Anwar Hossain in Dohar, Dhaka in 1971 | Courtesy: Anwar Hossain Foundation  

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