In Nepal, journalists and students protested in front of the Bangladesh Embassy in Kathmandu and lit up the city’s walls with projections of quotes and photographs by Alam during the visit to the Nepal capital by Sheikh Hasina for a South Asian leaders’ summit.
Alam, still imprisoned, was awarded the Photo Kathmandu Award of Excellence on 26 October 2018, both to celebrate the immense impact he has had on generations of Nepali journalists and photographers and as a clear sign of solidarity with one of South Asia’s most prominent photojournalists.
‘There is a Bangla saying – “Apnake dhonnobad janie choto korbo na” (I will not belittle you by thanking you),’ Alam writes in his preface. ‘This book is my way of making amends.’
Alam dedicates the first part to the prisoners in Keraniganj Jail in Dhaka. Without a camera to document his stay, he uses vivid writing to capture images of his detainment: the surroundings, the guards, his inmates and their stories, and the sparrows he made friends with.
The chapter also includes notes, sketches, a mural and even a radio made by inmates who were concerned that Alam ‘a journalist, did not have access to news’. The chapter can almost be read as a standalone, a poignant reflection on his 107-day incarceration.
The longest section of the book provides a detailed historical commentary on Bengali photography, touching on artists who have captured some of the most striking images to come out of Bangladesh, as well as on Alam’s own work. It includes one of his earliest series, which focuses on former sex worker Hazera Beagum.