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Intimate Photographs of Family Life in Bangladesh During Lockdown with the Covid-19 Pandemic

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I’m so delighted to publish Mohammad Shahnewaz Khan’s visual personal project within his family in Bangladesh during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. This is a photo story that will stay with you, the combination of narrative within the context of the images is astounding…

Mohammad Shahnewaz Khan, born in 1984, lives in Chittagong. He works as a freelance photographer who also sees himself as a social activist, Curator and Educator. He is the Founder Director of the VOHH Photography Institute, VOHH Foundation and the VOHH FOTO FEST.

Khan has won more than 100 international awards in the field of photojournalism and Documentary photography, Including; IanParry Scholarship-HM, UNICEF POY-HM, Alexia Student Grant, Andrei Stenin Press Award, IPOTY, Photoshare award, Al MayadeenTV award. Shortlisted: SWPA, Lucie Scholarship. He was Nominated: World PressPhoto JSM, UNICEF POY, Magnum EF Grant.

His photo series have been featured in print media and TV shows worldwide, Including; CNN, Sunday Times, Amnesty International, Guardian, NetGeo, Al Jazeera, FotoEvidence, BJP, TIME, Público, EyesOpen, Russia Today, Al MayadeenTV. And have been exhibited in 40 countries; Including: Somerset House, House of Lords, Royal Geographical Society, UN HQ, Lumiere Brothers center of photography, Addis Foto Fest, Bursa PhotoFest. His assignment experience includes: World Bank-IFC, CNN, Sputnik, Al MayadeenTv, Alexia, Público etc.

His long term projects have also been the subject of teaching, lectures and research in many Universities and Organizations in The US and Europe, like: Johns Hopkins University, East Carolina University, Duke University, University of Washington, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Roehampton, WHO, CARE, IERG, EBS, Population Council, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame etc.

Life in the Cage
My child Imran (22 months old), were ill several times during this Lockdown period, like: Fever, cold, cough, shortness of breath and Allergies. Which is seasonal flu and due to overheating, but it’s a terrible panic for us, because of unavailable health treatment in the country. Patients aren’t getting treatment, even those who aren’t corona patients are dying without treatment because of panic in the hospitals and the doctors and lack of empty seats.
Here we tried to make home treatment, In fact; I was forced to do it. My familiar doctor, through whom I regularly take treatment and advice to my children, he has been absent from his chambers for two months. Imran, having trouble to breathing and there is fever as well. I was bought personal Nebulizer machine, which is great support and Courage in this pandemic for my family. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/19/2020

In Bangladesh; we held our breaths and prayed our impoverished overpopulated country would somehow be spared from yet another disaster, but when the government enforced a nationwide lockdown on March 26th, we found ourselves homebound as though we were living in a cage. Today, we still are fearful to leave our home or allow others to visit. “Life in the Cage” is a visual personal project about my family and me. It documents the interaction of our relationships during these ongoing pandemic days in our home in the coastal city of Chittagong, Bangladesh.

My son Hossain (three and half years old) is studying with his mother and Imran (22 months old) is playing. My wife’s aunt praying Salah in the month of Ramadan, she is here to help us and now staying in my late mother’s room. During this lockdown period my kids are becoming much more restless and out of control, always they tried to go out and crying all the times. In these quarantine and lockdown period, children’s mental development is being hampered. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/12/2020
In this picture; I tried to document the daily life of my children during panic and pandemic lockdown period. Imran is lying on the bed and crying to go out and Hussein looked outside and sighed in frustration.
In these times; they are becoming much more restless and out of control. I would take them on trip at least once a week but now isn’t possible to go out. Children’s mental development is being hampered. Day after day, month after month, the housebound children go through mental and physical problems. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/01/2020.
I can see myself, Inside of the heavenly Buraq, which is neglected and lying down in the rooftops of my house. Yes I’ve found the story of my life and In the meantime I’ve found the motivation to survive. I’ve taken many pictures and told many stories in my photographic life. But for the first time, whenever I stand in front of my own camera, as if I’ve lost my temper, I forgot how to take pictures. Just then, yes then, as if I had discovered myself inside the toy of my kids, which is neglected and Lying down in the rooftops of my house. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/14/2020

I have spent my entire career as a photojournalist documenting the struggles of others for the world’s major news publications and teaching and mentoring other aspiring photojournalists. Now, for the first time, I stood in front of my own camera. I struggled to focus my lens on my own story, embracing the power of photography as a motivation to survive. This new experience felt awkward and at times uncomfortable. My photographs show slivers of our daily life, hope, disappointments, expectations, loneliness, frustration and fears. Our joys overshadow the uncertainties we face. These months in isolation has also explored my relationship with my wife Negar and our children Hossain and Imran. I was able to observe my family closely and I’ve discovered my weaknesses deeply. While struggling to capture this moment in history, I dreamed often? Once? of a downpour in the desert. I felt as though I was drowning and tried to stay alive through our story.

Nigar, Hussein and Imran spoke regularly to their grandparents and uncle, through video call. I take the children to their grandparents’ graves one day in a week, but now I can’t take them for many days now. Thanks to almighty Allah, my wife’s parents are alive. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/14/2020
I was visited dozens of countries around the world for different purpose. In those days I tried to collect the coins from the visited countries and sadly, many of them have been lost. In this hard time; suddenly I thought I can sell these coins because at this moment It means nothing for me. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/19/2020
For a time it seemed that I could no longer be worldly, It would have been better if there was no family, I want to escape from family life, I am stuck, I want to be free from all family ties. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/20/2020

Just a week before the lockdown began, I was preparing to take a job as a photographer teacher in the Bangladesh Air Force and curating and directing the Voice of Humanity and Hope (VOHH) photography festival. It took a lot of personal financial sacrifice to pull the festival together, but selling prints I have captured felt so rewarding as I witnessed how many people in my city were impacted by the display of stories that were hung throughout our city. I watched even our street children stop and try to touch the captured in images. 

mobile photography
After fasting all day; together the whole family is having ‘Iftar’ in the month of Ramadan. I have three brothers; me (photographer), Arman (Businessman) and Ataul (job holder) including their wife and children, we belongs to a joint family. In this pandemic; I get great support from my brothers and wife. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/27/2020
Portrait of my wife Negar Sultana (27), I do photography and Negar student of economics and we have two kids. Here I just tried to understand our relationship. We’re moving away from each other and not enjoying each other, even if we are sincere to each other. In these pandemic days; I had the opportunity to observe my wife in depth, my mistakes are floating in front of my eyes and here i tried to discover the reality. We are so close and so far away. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/23/2020
Caring for kids is really hard work. For the first time; I realized that, how much suffering my wife is having to take care of our kids, At the same time, there are various household chores as well and I was trying to help In addition to my own work. I tried to document daily life during these lockdown pandemic times, which is my first attempt as well to document my own life. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/14/2020

I and my brothers Arman and Ataul live with their wives and children in the same building as a joint family; it’s a great source of support. But, in my society, a man is taught not to speak about his own worries, which at this time are many. During the lockdown, our children became ill with fever, coughing, shortness of breath linked to allergies. We were afraid to seek treatment because of fear of being infected with the Covid-19 virus. We tried home remedies. In fact; my wife and I really had no choice. Our regular familiar family doctor has been absent from his clinic for over two months. It was terrible, because of unavailable health treatment in Bangladesh. Patients aren’t getting treatment, even those who aren’t corona patients are dying without treatment because of panic in hospitals and doctors and lack of empty seats.

Self portrait, I’m trying to discover the mystery of life and peace by embracing a dead fish. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/29/2020
Daily family life during lockdown corona pandemic in Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/03/2020.

As each day passed, our fears grew as we listened to the reports of the rising numbers of those infected and the lives claimed. Our rooftop satellite dish caught images on our television showing so many other countries far more advanced and supposedly economically secure than Bangladesh digging graves. It was hard to imagine we were not watching a war.

I took Hossain to the pharmacy wearing a mask. On the way back, a flowering tree caught his attention, because I once told him; it’s sweeter to drink the water that comes out of its back from these flowers of the tree. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/11/2020
A view of our kitchen, Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/24/2020
Hossain run away from home, as if; he found the door of heaven. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/02/2020
In the kitchen, my youngest brother bought two big fish for family.
I have three brothers; me (photographer), Arman (Businessman) and Ataul (job holder) including their wife and children, we belongs to a joint family. In this pandemic; I get great support from my brothers and wife. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/29/2020

A recent survey has found that 72.6% Bangladeshis are suffering from insomnia, Covid-19 has a significant detrimental effect on the mental health and psychological well-being of the people of Bangladesh. The money my wife had hidden away for potential disasters is now almost gone, but we pool together our strengths. “Life in a Cage” is intended to capture our resilience.

During this coronavirus lockdown pandemic; I was joined with my son Hossain, in a online human chain for a missing photojournalist Kajol. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/11/2020
In this picture; I tried to document the daily life of my children during panic and pandemic lockdown period. Imran is crying loudly on the bed, to go out of the house. In these times; they are becoming much more restless and out of control. I would take them on trip at least once a week but now isn’t possible to go out. Children’s mental development is being hampered. Day after day, month after month, the housebound children go through mental and physical problems. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/11/2020.
There is no sleep in the eyes of the children, during this pandemic, they become restless to play and go out. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/11/2020
Seeing my body exercises, kids also get excited to following me, Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/23/2020
In the picture; there are traditional, Chittagonian ‘Mezbani meal’ and traditional, Chittagonian ‘Orsh Biryani’ for IFTAR in the month of Ramadan. During lockdown these is really unavailable but suddenly my younger brother got these. Chittagong, Bangladesh, 05/08/2020
“Mezban” in Persian means host and “Mezbani” means hosting or arranging a feast for the guests. Historically, Mezbani is a traditional regional feast where people are invited to enjoy a meal with white rice and beef and these meals are organized in different occasions. Basically we don’t accept white rice in Iftar, for that reason traditional ‘Orsh Biryani’ is over there. This kind of Biryani is traditionally presented at ‘Orash mahfil’, at the feast of various Sufi saints, on their death anniversary. Both are beef-dominated meals and prominent style of cooking and demand a certain skill.
Daily life………Chittagong, Bangladesh 4/12/2020
In this pandemic and lockdown children can’t go out even in the day of Eid al Fitr. In the backyard, my younger brother is trying to give joy to the children on the day of Eid by his motorcycle. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/25/2020
I’ve two kids and two of my younger brothers have two more kids, in total four. Kids, during this time are becoming much more restless and out of control, always they tried to go out and crying all the times. I just tried to make them happy and always I tried different options to make them happy and cool. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/13/2020
I’ve two kids and two of my younger brothers have two more kids, in total four. Kids, during this time are becoming much more restless and out of control, always they tried to go out and crying all the times. I just tried to make them happy and always I tried different options to make them happy and cool. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/13/2020

You can view more of Shahnewaz’s work here  

Seeing my body exercises, kids also get excited to following me, Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/23/2020
Kids get little sleep during this time, become restless to play and go out. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/14/2020.
I tried to document the daily life of my children during panic and pandemic lockdown period. In these times; they are becoming much more restless and out of control and crying to go out. I would take them on trip at least once a week but now isn’t possible to go out. Children’s mental development is being hampered. Day after day, month after month, the housebound children go through mental and physical problems. Chittagong, Bangladesh 05/17/2020.
mobile photography
Enjoying the last afternoon light with Imran, he asked me where is the Sun? In these difficult pandemic times I tried much to spend more times with my kids, I’ve to alive for them. Chittagong, Bangladesh 04/29/2020

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Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website— TheAppWhisperer.com— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said.
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