In writing, we are told to suspend disbelief — to write images, characters, events with such insistence that a reader could not help but follow faithfully, no matter how reality might beg otherwise.
For me, India encapsulates this mantra, as it presents the impossible with the frank challenge of existence: You see me as I am, so I must be possible.
This magical duality — of fairytale beauty contrasting physical world impossibility — is often breathtaking in the photography of GMB Akash of Bangladesh. Above, fires rise with the paradox of flames growing out of what they devour, as a saddhu skirts the foregrounds of funeral pyres along the ghats at Varanasi.
Below, our real-world brain acknowledges the third-world strife of precariously hung electrical wires, of the stairwell’s switchback between the crowded box of shared living space — yet the glow of color in the dark of night, captured by Akash’s lens become the loveliest of colored lanterns.
As with fairytales, Akash’s photography serves as more than entertainment. Many of his most beautifully artistic, even idyllic shots, as the one below, were intended as cautionary tale. Beginning in 2006, Akash began photographing riders on the railways of Bangladesh to bring attention to the risks endured by stowaways, collected in his portfolio, “Nothing to Hold On To.”
Below, one has the sense of a child adventuring in a fantastical world — perhaps Frodo in Lord of the Rings — yet it is the industry of a child foraging amid the rising gulls and mists of the dump.
Other striking portfolios bring attention to “Vigilantes in Pink” — women of central India who have taken to wearing shocking pink saris in stubborn refusal to live in fear of corruption, violence and other abuses against women.
Better than any workshop lecture could, certain photographs, certain places in our world teach me what it means to suspend one’s disbelief. There is magic in the realism of these images, and I applaud GMB Akash’s talents.
Click through for more stunning photography on his site, or read his most recent blog, “God Strangled me with his own hands” for example of another photo-dialogue he has raised for challenged communities.