LoosenArt Mag / Gallery

Sumon Yusuf

Posted on July 13 2018

Coming from a family of artists and being interested in photography since when she was young, Sara has acquired familiarity and intimacy with this medium. Looking at her pictures, that is quite easy to see and understand..

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I utilize my camera as a tool to create imagery that is in both real and surreal, laced in fantasy.. The story continues to grow as I rely on my conscious and subconscious to invent and transfer those thoughts to an image. - S. Y.

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Sumon Yusuf (1983) is an artist currently living in Dhaka, Bangladesh, mainly interested in documentary photography.
In the early 2000’s, when he was collaborating with a newspaper as photographer, he realised he wanted to ‘institutionalise’ his passion with the academic practice. So, after studying photojournalism in Manila (Philippines), he devoted himself to a socially active career.

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Yusuf’s work, marked by a critical perspective and social interests, observes and analyses reality with a fantastic and surreal touch. Faded colours and blurred atmospheres wrap all the characters framed by the artist’s eye and that is the way reality is turned into something else. Cultural, historical and identity issues – like the ones involved with the Rohingyas, stateless people from Myanmar who recently seeked refuge in Bangladesh –  become stories in need to be told, crucial tales of our present.

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Author Silvia Colombo

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L.A.: Sumon to start how and when did you become interested in photography?
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Sumon Yusuf: It was back in 2002 when I decided to do photography. Firstly, I had started taking photographs for a weekly newspaper as an amateur photographer. After few years I’ve realized that I should learn more about photography. Then through the academic practice I’ve got much interest in photography. Because it is related with art, history, philosophy, geopolitics, poetry, novel, music and lots of things. Photography involves a lot of introspection over the course of a career. The deeper I get, the more I realize that it’s all about what I’m interested in, how I feel about it, and what I want to say to the people who view my work. As I shoot, I learn more about myself, what I value, and how I see the world.
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L.A.: What does photography mean to you? what is your statement as a photographer?
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Sumon Yusuf: My work takes a critical view of social, political and cultural issues. Photography for me is a way to tell a story and evoke a feeling. I utilize my camera as a tool to create imagery that is in both real and surreal, laced in fantasy. In my attempt to tell a story I combine my memories and observances of my surroundings. The story continues to grow as I rely on my conscious and subconscious to invent and transfer those thoughts to an image. I have been making since many years long term project that touches notions of memory, and transition, especially about social issues. On the border between documentary photography and artistic expression is my common approach. The images I create give an unusual view of our society.
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The Quest for Identity #2 │ Buy it
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L.A.: What led to tell about Rohingya community?
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Sumon Yusuf: I Rohingya community is in racial identity crisis. What is its history? What is its geo-political identity? What is its culture? Answers are obscure since thousands of years and as a result they are now compelled to leave their own land often a long oppression and violence. The year 2017 is the latest interface of this ethnic cleansing. Hill, river and the sea have embraced together here. Teknaf is situated at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Ignoring the complex geo politics amazing innate beauty has surrounded two Southeast Asian countries. Melted bodies of domestic animals or skeleton and the dead bodies of human being are scattered here and there at the seashore. While crossing the border in the middle of the night they died in a boat capsize. After continuously walking for a couple of days and trespassing the border persecuted Rohingya men, women, children and elderly persons are seen taking rest together at the sea beach. Newly entered Rohingya Muslims are performing their salat (prayer) in Bangladesh. Border Guard Bangladesh’s (BGB) border check post is at the zero point. No surveillance is found there. Bangladesh border was opened to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of fleeing Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who were trying to avoid an ethnic cleansing.
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L.A.: What's your degree of involvement with what you are shooting? Why that physical distance with your subjects?
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Sumon Yusuf: I’ve studied photojournalism at Ateneo de Manila University in Philippines. I’ve assigned to cover visual stories for national and international projects in France, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Essentially, my visual is the existence of refuge seeking Rohingyas in beautiful Bangladeshi landscapes. Intentionally I maintained a distance while photographing. It can be termed as a racial distance between me and my subject of the photographs. In a way, in these photographs I also showed the indistinct identity of this identity less community.
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L.A.: In your opinion what are the characteristics that a good Documentary Photographer needs to have?
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Sumon Yusuf: Photography, for all intents and purposes, is a form of art. Therefore, it requires a creative mind─ and plenty of imagination. A good documentary photographer must be able to look at something ordinary, or even extraordinary, and find a million different ways to interpret what he or she is seeing and convey those interpretations in beautiful and meaningful photos. A good documentary photographer must have a very keen eye for detail to ensure that all elements within the photo─ the lighting, the composition, the subject, and everything else in between─ work together harmoniously to convey the right vision or message.
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The Quest for Identity #3 │ Buy it
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The Quest for Identity #1 │ Buy it
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L.A.: Do you have a favorite shot in this series? If so, which one and why?
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Sumon Yusuf: My favorite photograph of this series is that where is seen, after continuously walking for a couple of days and trespassing the border persecuted Rohingya men, women, children and elderly persons are taking rest together at the sea beach. All those tiring, hungry and thirsty faces are looking not in camera. Though it is very difficult to manage not a single person in camera face specially in big group. However, there is also another reason for being favorite of this photograph. On the sea shore sitting each human figure has individually different body gesture. This situation increase the artistic expression of this photograph.
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L.A.: What are you busy doing in this period? Have you any future project?
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Sumon Yusuf: In present day I’ve been working as researcher and curator on a photography book project named “20 Years of Photojournalism of The Daily Prothom Alo”. Meanwhile, I’ve completed a photographer’s interview book in Bengali language. This will be published in 2019 in Bangladesh. Now I’m researching the next extension of my project “The Quest for Identity”. End of this year I’ll start work on changing geographical landscape in Cox’s Bazar. Due to Rohingya influx in Bangladesh.
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The Quest for Identity #5 │ Buy it
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The Quest for Identity #4 │ Buy it
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The Quest for Identity series
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Sumon Yusuf
 
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