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Salma Abedin Prithi: I never planned to be a photographer

  • Published at 08:15 pm May 25th, 2019
Salma Abedin Prithi
Salma Abedin Prithi | Courtesy

Photographer Salma Abedin Prithi has been selected for a month-long fellowship program on ‘Photography and Social Justice’ by the Magnum Foundation. She will leave the country for the US by the end of this month. Prior to her departure, Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Nazia Adnin sat with her to learn more about her work and future plans

Salma Abedin Prithi says she is more a story-teller than a photographer. From the very beginning of her photography career, she has always focused on expressing emotions through her striking photos.

Discussing her journey in the world photography, Prithi said: “I never planned to be a photographer. I used to work in the newsroom of a private TV channel, and then I saw one of my friend’s portfolios, which inspired me to take up photography. I thought it would be fun.

“I quit my job in 2009, to focus more on photography,” she added. 

Prithi graduated in photography from the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute. Subsequently, she began working with Canvas magazine as a lifestyle photographer.  

‘Dear Love’ Project: 

One of Prithi’s projects, titled “Dear Love,” is a monologue by ordinary people, as they talk about their relationships and stand in front of the camera intimately with their dear ones. Last year, the project was showcased at an exhibition at the Moncrief Cancer Institute Gallery in Texas.

“I believe I visited more than 100 houses across Bangladesh to take photos for my ‘Dear Love’ story,” Prithi said. “I started working on the project in 2011, and I took photos both at home and abroad. I even took photos of complete strangers, approaching them on roads. In most cases, the people were enthusiastic.  

“I tried to capture emotions and our vulnerability. This project helped me explore and understand human psychology,” she added.

Describing the project as universal and on-going, Prithi said she would resume work on it in the near future.

‘Mundane’ and Magnum Foundation fellowship:

Prithi has also begun a project called “Mundane,” as a silent protest against any kind of violence. It was for this project that she won the Magnum Foundation fellowship.  

“In the beginning, I used to collect excerpts and photos from newspapers, and eventually I started taking photos in my studio in order to demonstrate the violence,” Prithi said. 

“Last year, I was nominated by a Magnum photographer, Sohrab Hura for the fellowship. After I submitted my work, they interviewed me and I was among 9 photographers around the world who were selected for the fellowship,” she added with a smile on her face. 

“Since the foundation’s focus is on social justice, my photos were just what they were looking for,” she further said. 

The enigmatic photographer also has plans to add more photos to the “Mundane” project. 

One of the photos from the 'Mundane' project | Courtesy Other works and exhibitions: 

“Gloomy Sunday” is another distinctive project by Prithi. 

“In life we play many roles- mother, daughter, wife, and friend. I tried to explore those roles in our lives in the ‘Gloomy Sunday’ project,” she said. 

“As I believe our projects are reflections of our thoughts and personalities, my projects are reflections of my thoughts and emotions as well,” the photographer added.

“My childhood was the best time of my life. I grew up in an open space, where I could see the sky all the time, and it was a very different time,” Prithi reminisced.

Prithi’s projects have been featured in many national and international exhibitions, including the Asia Peace Film Festival in Pakistan, Focus Photography Festival in India, Chobi Mela International Photography Festival in Bangladesh, and Addis Photo Festival in Ethiopia. 

The accomplished photographer has received many awards and grants, including the Magnum Foundation’s Photography and Social Justice Fellowship. She was a recipient of the Women in Photography (WIPNYC) Grant and Mentor Program in 2017.