“There is beauty and there is truth and most truth in this present world is ugly.”
“In the central jail of the capital Dhaka, it is unbearable to live there. It is impossible to document it, cameras are not allowed inside.”
The prisoners sit on the floor of the common cell; this special newly opened women prison has much space. But in the central jail in the capital Dhaka this same amount of space is packed with women and their children.
I received an email yesterday from Diederik Meijer, editor of The Black Snapper, an online magazine that presents each day the work of a new photographer. The works are selected by guest curators and grouped under a weekly (geographical) theme.
The magazine live since August 1st 2009 works with guest curators such as Abbas of Magnum Photos, Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan, International Photo Festival Bangladesh, Centro de la Imagen in Peru and The New York Times Magazine. In the Netherlands, guest curators include nrc.next, Vrij Nederland magazine and Canvas International Art.
I was happy Meijer contacted me.
This week, The Black Snapper is focusing on photographers from Bangladesh. Following Andrew Biraj, they’ve featured Momena Jalil a photographer whose work I’ve pointed out before. Prison Photography and The Black Snapper share admiration for the Bangladesh photographic community and its numerous talents putting work out internationally.
Momena Jalil’s project is obscured however; her photographs are only half the story of sorry conditions in Bangladesh’s prisons.
These are the images she was allowed to take … and this is a newly operating jail. She was not granted access to the older sites of incarceration. The scenario is quite bizarre. Jalil speculates that, in 2007, this prison was hastily finished so as to house two prominent female political leaders. Not all the buildings, such as the male or juvenile blocks, in the compound were completed or in use at the time of Jalil’s visit. The prison was opened amidst a choreographed national media campaign.
Jalil refers to the women in their prison provided white shari with blue stripes as “angels without wings”. Jalil suggests that the crimes accused and evidence gathered are neither properly articulated or adequately qualified. Who are we to judge these women when the system that cages them exposes itself to grave question?
The eyes of Salma tell more than we can read or understand, perhaps there is complaint, plea, anguish, misplaced trust or betrayal? It is fact a she hides her lips but she kept her eyes open. It is sad we are illiterate to the language of eyes.
Photo & Captions: Momena Jalil