Angels in hell

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As is common among many poor families, the parents of Rony (13 years old) took him to work in a factory. The boy spends his long day in a manufacturing plant for making iron locks and earns approximately US $10 per month. He made his own ‘safety mask’ for his job, this mask of cloth, of course, will not protect Rony from iron toxicity nor mechanical accidents. Still, it serves to calm some of his fear. Dhaka, Bangladesh
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Two child laborers are eating their lunch during a break at the factory where they work. Down in these deadly factories the word, “childhood” disappears as early as the age of five. Rapid maturity is all that will keep them alive. Their silent cries echo from wall to wall in their Hell which is considered a blessed place for them because they can earn bread. Dhaka, Bangladesh
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Child labour is not a new issue in Bangladesh – says the photographer Gmb Akash – as children remain here one of the most vulnerable groups living under threats of hunger, illiteracy, displacement, exploitation, trafficking, physical and mental abuse. Although the issue of child labor has always been discussed, there is hardly any remarkable progress even in terms of mitigation. 17.5 percent of total children of the 5-15 age groups are engaged in economic activities. Many of these children are engage in various hazardous occupations in manufacturing factories. Factory owners prefer to employ children as they could pay them less and also able to keep their factories free from trade unionism. a child labour gets taka 400 to 700 ( 1 USD = 70 taka) per month, while an adult worker earns up to taka 5000 per month.

In 2002 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004 I received the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris — once again, the first Bangladeshi to receive this honour. In 2005 I was awarded “Best of Show” at the Center for Fine Art Photography’s international competition in Colorado, USA. And in 2006 I was awarded World Press Photo award and released my premier book “First Light”. In 2007 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the 30 Emerging Photographers (PDN 30), sponsored by Photo District News Magazine, USA. I won the 7th Vevey International Photography Grant from Switzerland in 2009 and in the same year, I took home the international ‘Travel photographer of the Year” title at the International Travel Photographer of the Year Competition (TPOY 2009) in the UK, the most prestigious award in travel photography.

I was one of the speakers in the fifth Global Investigative Journalism Conference, held at Lillehammer, Norway in 2008 and as well I was the first Bangladeshi in Ted talk at TEDxOporto 2011, in Portugal. I was one of the speaker of “7th Forum of Emerging Leaders in Asian Journalism”, Yogyakarta / Indonesia”. In 2011 Nikon has selected me as one of the 8 influencers in Asia pacific (APAC region). Presentation of my 10 years project published as form of book ‘Survivors’ in 2012, which has reviewed by prestigious Geo magazine. I performed as Jury in several international photo contest such as Friends of the Earth International Photo Competition (The Netherlands), The Worldwide photography Gala Award​ ( UK)​,​Garuda Indonesia World Photo Contest 2014, (Indonesia), Fine Art Photography Award, UK, Siena International Photography Awards – SIPA, (Italy) and many more.

I founded the FIRST LIGHT INSTITUTE OF PHOTOGRAPHY in Narayangonj (near Dhaka), Bangladesh in August, 2013. Along with guest master photographers, I am teaching photography in workshops and seminars for aspiring young photographers at reasonable tuition. The proceeds from this are to help achieve my ultimate objective of providing basic education for street children, child sex workers, and child laborers.

I started studying this art and techniques, firstly in Bangladesh and then continued my studies in the Philippines at Ateneo de Manila University did my Diploma in Multimedia Journalism.

Growing up in a developing country filled with millions of impoverished people and abused children, I had access to the darkest corners of the world. Overwhelmed with compassion and empathy for those people in my photographs, I was determined to give a voice to the voiceless and have it heard around the world. However, at one point I realized that just effectively reporting the human rights injustices through my images was not enough. I repeatedly asked myself then; what changes have my photos brought to the lives of my subjects of abuse and suffering? I knew that as a photojournalist that it was my duty to tell the truth but besides that, as a human being I believed that it was my moral duty to find ways to alleviate the pain of abuse and poverty of those people in my photographs.

It was at that time that I decided to dedicate myself to what became more than 10 years of my life to photographing ‘Survivors’. This resulted in a self-published photography book depicting the invincibility of the human spirit to survive against all odds. The proceeds from the book and subsequent exhibitions go to helping the subjects in that book set up small businesses for which I train them and monitor their progress in order to make them and their families self-sufficient.

GMB AKASH