Dhaka through Rahul Talukder's Eye

I may not have been born in Dhaka, but I have become who I am as I grew up in this city. Even after living and visiting some of the most vibrant cities in this short span of my life, Dhaka has remained as the most unique and bizarre. I define Dhaka as a city of chaos that unfolds its vibrance simultaneously through prolificacy and desolation. Call me biased, but, to the best of my limited knowledge, I have known only a few who could truly capture Dhaka as I see it. Rahul Talukder is one of them.

Based in Dhaka, Talukder is a documentary photographer whose works I will probably recommend to anyone wanting to see and feel the daily life of this city and its restless dwellers. One of the best qualities of Talukder is that he foregrounds the people eloquently, while intricately mapping their socio-political and cultural domains interwoven with the city. Talukder received both national and international accolades initially for Made in Bangladesh, a series that documented the grim realities of Rana Plaza collapse. However, I would say his recent works on the multifaceted realities of Dhaka show how he is decamping from the fatalistic visual language, incorporated while directly witnessing that haunting man-made disaster.

In tandem with the mass, individuals in Talukder’s photographs speak for themselves, often contriving each other’s existence. Sometimes, his captures turn self-reflexive, hinting at his presence as these individuals submit themselves to the observer and the space all of them are occupying. What is actualized throughout these moments is the contention between the old and new, mundane and real.

His quirky, yet surprisingly tangible, take on the political and religious landscape of Bangladesh unveils how the city is enmeshed in the conundrum of faith and belief, unleashed by a few upon many.

Being a Dhaka dweller by heart, I have seen how this city can become an inherent constituent of festivals and celebrations. No matter if it is a hidden alley or a bustling street, his curious finds invoke a sense of unity, through which the city and its people coexist.

Underneath the scorching sun, I have probably seen Talukder countless times in Dhaka city. Our paths crossed as we both engorged Dhaka, while one performing his daily life, and the other navigating that life with his observant eyes. I find Talukder’s works astounding as I might have personally experienced those frozen, yet enlivening, moments. With his constantly updating social media feed or an enriching portfolio, it is evident that his curious eyes never seem to run dry, just like Dhaka.