Mothers and Orphans

30 July 13

Posted at 11:42

Village Boys

Boys from the village of Motlovpur gather round my car as we leave the village after spending around three hours there meeting and photographing orphan girls and boys. The lads are fascinated by me probably having never seen a Westerner before and certainly not in Motlovpur. The village is a torturous drive from Dhaka taking anything from 3 to 5 hours. I was commissioned to visit the village while I was in Bangladesh by the Media Trust. They were making a promotional video for one of their clients, the Al Mustafa Welfare Trust, and really needed some stills of Bangladeshi orphan girls and their Mothers. It was opportune that I happened to be doing a project in Dhaka so they asked if I could fit a visit to Motlovpur into my schedule.

Visiting the village, other than the actual journey, was a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Dhaka. The setting was idyllic, paddy fields and a sort of biblical atmosphere, it was like stepping into the past. The villagers along with their ducks, dogs, goats and cows found me fascinating and word of my presence soon spread.

My job was to photograph primarily girls and their Mothers and to interview them (with the aid of my interpreter). In their culture a Fatherless child is an orphan and orphan girls in particular may be disowned by the father's family and indeed some of their own family.


This s Iti. Her father died when she was just one year old. Iti is now nine. The only income the family have comes from Iti's older brother working in the fields after school.

Iti at Home

This is Iti in her house. The homes are simple. Corrugated iron fixed to a wooden frame. A couple of beds and a chair or two plus all their belongings in a single room. 

Farida and Jahida

Farida above with her Mother Jaheda. Farida's Father died when Jaheda was six moths pregnant so the eleven year old never met her Father. Farida has a fifteen year old brother whose income from working in the fields

supports the family.


I did meet some orphan boys as well. This is ten year old Usman with his Grandmother. Usman's Father died in a road accident three years ago. Usmans Mother provides for her son by working in the garment industry in Dhaka. Her visits to the village are rare.


Fourteen year old Onuakhtar does her homework. She hopes to be a doctor one day. Her Father died of TB when she was two. Her Mother works in Dhaka as a servant and is only at home for one day a week. Her paternal uncles live in the village but have disowned her and her Mother.


Khodeza is ten years old and her Father died from kidney failure just six weeks ago. She has three sisters, one works in the garment industry in Dhaka and provides the family income.


This is Tanjina and below is her sister Tamana


Tamana's Mum works as a maid servant in Dhaka. The girls fend for themselves in the village when Mum is working away. They have no other relatives.

Although the children I met were smiling and appeared happy they have a tough life of poverty. In many ways they are excluded in the village community because of their orphan status. Most of them aspire to be teachers or doctors when they grow up - aspirations that stand little chance of being fulfilled. The Al Mustafa Welfare Trust endeavours to support orphan girls across many subcontinent countries.

Here is a link to the video which includes my stills which was the objective of my visit.


My Year for A Portrait Prize?

02 July 13

Posted at 10:47

Every year around this time I get excited and enthused as it's time to submit entries to the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize for that 100/1 chance of getting exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery. I say 100/1 as mathematically that's the odds when there are iro 6000 entries each year with just 60 being exhibited. If I am honest my odds must be a lot longer than that! Never the less I pays my fees and give it a shot. As they say "you can't win the lottery if you don't have a ticket".

This year I have entered images from two recent projects.


This first - called 'Missing" is a candid portrait of a Mother who visited the site of the Rana Plaza Disaster every day searching for news of her missing daughters. I took this photograph three weeks after the disaster and two days after the rescue operation was formally ended - yet still the crowds gathered.


My second image is also from the Rana Plaza series. This one is called 'Bereaved'. Nineteen year old Shuli holds her young baby. Her 26 year old husband was killed in the Rana Plaza Tragedy.


My third entry is from my Mothers and Orphans series. I visited Motlovpur a village in the Kishorgong District three hours out of Dhaka. I was the first Westerner to visit the village so I generated a lot of interest. I was there to photograph orphans and their Mothers for a project for a charity, the Al Mustafa Welfare Trust. This is Khodeza who is ten years old. Khodeza's father died of kidney failure just six weeks earlier.


My final entry is also from the Mothers and Orphans series and depicts asaya and her sons Mefdi and Arman. Their father died of jaundice a year ago.

Next week I will make my annual pilgrimage to the LCC with my prints. I will then forget about the competition until September when I receive an email advising me that my prints are awaiting collection as unfortuantely they were not selected for exhibition. The standards were very high! Then back up to the LCC to collect them. But you never know - perhaps this year the September email will have a different message. I'll let you know!