Originally a biochemistry graduate, Tahia has already created her style and visual language to express her view of the story of women, she is one of the most talented young Bangladeshi photographers based in Dhaka.
Tahia Farhin Haque’s work shatters traditional stereotypes about women, by bringing
women’s unique perspectives to the forefront of her photography practice. She hopes to lend a voice to issues that are unheard of and unseen in the rest of the world, while making her viewers question their paradigms on a personal level. She has worked with New York Times and United Nations on a project which later became a best-selling book “Thisis18”. She had her exhibition in Dhaka Art Summit 2020.
CONTACT SHEET INTERVIEW WITH TAHIA FARHIN HAQUE
Hi Tahia. Thank you for your time, tell me about your start, when and how you started taking photographs?
My fascination with art began at an early age as I found myself exploring various exhibitions and art galleries at every opportunity. Right after school I got my hands on my first smartphone which opened up a whole new world as I could express my thoughts and emotions through the magical powers of photography. I derive immense joy from the ability to frame a moment through my lens and highlight emotions that encapsulate the different perspectives in society.
Tell us about your inspirations and what motivates you?
My inspiration has always been to highlight the plights and wonders of a woman and her journey through society. Trauma both physical and mental, is something I want to comprehend and thereby express the emotions involved in an artistic manner to inspire and encourage inquisitiveness in young audiences, both male and female, about the blatant and hidden atrocities occurring all around us.
You see your surroundings from your own perspective and create your version of the story, tell us more about your thought process of storytelling.
I want to create genuine and engaging content. I want my art to grab an audience’s attention while simultaneously evoking emotions within them that inspire them to question and reflect upon the veiled reality all around us.
You have got several recognitions from some reputed international platforms, which are few you want to name as a great source of inspiration.
I have been fortunate that my efforts have come to fruition. One of my achievements was that I worked with New York Times on the project “This is 18” which later on became the best-selling book of the same name. I had my exhibition at Dhaka Art Summit 2020 as I was one of the finalists for the Samdani Art Award of that year. This year 2021 I worked with Goethe Institut and produced offline and online exhibits. I was the awardee for their grant “Futures Beyond the Self”.
Recently, I was one of the artists for the art auction for “Bangladesh Art Week” on the “Ora Egaro Jon” I am proud to say I sold my photography in art auction, and it was one of a kind in Bangladesh as we rarely see photographs be in art auction in Bangladesh.
I was published by Forbes, Aperture and the Swedish magazine C-print and Exibart, which I can recall in the past year.
You photograph people, people around you, how do you select your story and who is your favourite subject?
I usually have few ideas/concepts running through my mind all the time and as I traverse the world around me, I find myself scanning and eagerly awaiting a moment to capture or get inspired by. I find human beings fascinating; their body language and expressions help me express my perspective on a topic/idea. Human beings strutting around without any inhibition and subjects sitting stoically both have their own charm and help tell stories in drastically varied manners. Sometimes I conceptualize and do studio practice and sometimes I find that specific photograph while I actively look for it subconsciously.
Technical question, what is your most comfortable Camera? Do you think camera matters a lot?
I love smartphones to be honest, that was my first camera per se in my life and that is the truth. But I love working with Fujifilm point and shoot cameras. In recent years I have had that and it truly is my comfort camera. At the end of the day, it shouldn't matter what camera we have, it's what our eyes capture through the camera. Of course, for professional work you might need a good high end camera but even that can be worked around.
For newbies, what would be your suggestion if anyone wants to start photography? Do you suggest any master photographer to follow to be inspired?
Just start and take many pictures, be your own critic and figure out how you like to capture images. Find your style in which you are comfortable and use your own unique lens to showcase the world around you. Get inspired by others but don't try to be like them, be true to yourself and you will stand out. One more thing I highly suggest is to watch good cinema, listen to music, read real literature-poetry and be in tune with creative works of art around the world or in your own country.
I would suggest they see the works and life of Sayeeda Khanam, her work is inspiring as well as her lifespan and needs to be seen by every photographer out there.
Being a Bangladeshi Photographer, how do you evaluate the contemporary standard of photography in Bangladesh?
I feel it's still budding at the initial stage, there is more to learn and execute. Photography was accepted in our country as a fine art just a few years ago, and not even in big institutions yet. It should be taught at universities as a fine art for those who want it. Across the world photography is the contemporary way to express art but here we are still used to the stereotypical utilization of photography. There is more to it i would say, there are PhD programs just to break down visual literacy and why we take some photos and why it attracts, if we don't learn the inner theory and mechanics of photography, it would be very difficult to sustain it in the contemporary field. Visual literacy and accepting it as an art form is of the utmost importance to further it as a contemporary field.
What are your ongoing and future projects?
Currently I am working on still life emphasizing on colors and shadows completely overtaking on people based work and instead focusing on the emotions and feelings within. For the last couple of years my work was based on subjects. Now I am trying out something new. I had my exhibition with Goethe Institut for a grant where I showcased a glimpse of my work at Kala Kendra gallery. It's based on the collective consciousness that has been impacted by the deadly virus and more deadly virus that lives within us.
Tell us about your inspirations, name some photographers to follow for the photographers?
My main inspirations are stories, the subtle stories that we tell each other and nuances that we know exist but aren't sure how to talk about or feel the need to be talked about on a broader scale. I get inspired by the people around me who embody the feminine spirit. I feel inspired by the people who are trapped within confinements but still have the smile to go through and fight the good battle.
I won't be able to finish in just one list but I will give it a try.
Nasir Ali Mamun, is a legendary photographer of Bangladesh, he did phenomenal portrait work and he is our treasure. I love Mahmud Rahman’s work, particularly the one he did on gypsies over a span of time, it reflects the diversity of life. Latif Hossain is another photographer whom I admire, snapping precious moments in his cameras. Saiful Huq Omi’s documentary works are taught even in universities across the globe, any photographer needing to see the documentary genre should look him up. Munem Wasif's works are renowned, they are beautiful and poignant. Jannatul Mawa’s one work in particular I stared and stared in an exhibition, it captivated me, something as simple as two people sitting in a sofa but the way they sat and expressions changed everything, the very core of our society. Ashfika Rahman is leading into the contemporary aspect of photography incorporating art and storytelling. KM Asad is another photographer who has made us so proud, his photo was in the cover page of National Geography. Abir Abdullah is an amazing photojournalist and any words would be less when talked about his journalistic career.
In terms of outside of Bangladesh, I love Bharat Choudhary’s where he deals with Islamophobia through his eyes. In the list I would also put a photographer whose works are about the environment, Grant Simon Rogers. Haruka Sakaguchi’s resonates within, during the #blacklivesmovement her voice was one of the strongest and she continues to shine through her truth.
Daido Moriyama, Stanley Greene, Zanele Muholi, Nan Goldin and Colin Pantall who are world renowned, and has a unique perspective.
All Photos are Copy Righted by (C) Tahia Farhin Haque