But how did a Bangladeshi make such a deep impact in Nepal? In a short video made for the occasion, several generations of Nepali journalists and photographers spoke about the immense impact Alam had on their personal and professional development. Bikas Rauniar remembered when Alam succeeded in bringing the World Press Photo exhibition to Kathmandu in September 2002. This was a difficult feat because such an expensive international show had never been accessible to a Nepali public before. Several others like Uma Bista and Arpan Shrestha spoke about the critical educational opportunities and occasions for international exposure that Alam provided.
Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati, co-founder of Photo Kathmandu, met Alam in 2007, at the opening of ‘A People’s War‘, a photobook trilogy launched at the end of the Maoist War. Alam has taught her that working in countries where resource crunches and political pressures were inevitable requires courage, persistence, kindness and passion. Their dialogue has continued over a decade and during this time Photo Circle, the festival’s parent organisation that has been active for over eleven years, has imbibed much of its ethos through Alam’s examples. The way in which their exhibitions blend into the city through nurturing neighborhood participation and discussion is a key tenet of Chobi Mela, the region’s first festival of photography founded by Alam.
In his absence, Gurung Kakshapati invited Alam’s students, colleagues and supporters on stage to accept the award. The 35 people who walked forward represented a cross-section of Nepali, Indian and Bangladeshi artists. Holding masks of Alam’s face over their faces, they stood together in silence. The collective solidarity visible in this moment was indicative of the depth of Alam’s influence.