Full Frame: Living stone

Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers in the field.

“Once upon a time there was a blue river that flowed in Jaflong, but now it is going to lose its natural beauty. Uncontrolled stone crushing threatens the local people’s health” said Probal Das, a stone worker in this community.

The story that I am telling with these photographs is about the hard-working community of Jaflong in the northeastern part of Bangladesh. The Piyain River, which flows from India through Bangladesh, is the main feature of the community, giving it natural beauty.

During the monsoon season, river currents wash precious rocks and pebbles from India into the Jaflong area. At dawn every day, laborers on more than 100 little boats enter the Piyain River, buckets and spades in hand. They collect the stones and then crush them. The crushed stones are sold for use making roads and at construction sites.

It is a trade with a geological limit. The stones that tumble down the riverbed from India are decreasing in volume and the laborers are already taking risks in venturing into the no-man's land along the India-Bangladesh border.

More than 2,000 men, women and children work as stone laborers here. Uncontrolled and unstoppable stone extracting and crushing at Jaflong pose a serious threat to public health, and to the environement and agriculture in the area. There is no legal protection or concern about human rights violations in this stone industry.

Many children suffer hearing problems due to the high-pitched sounds of the stone crushing machines. As many as 250 machines crush stone at Jaflong. Abul Hossain, a local, told me they cannot produce crops on their lands because the dust from the crushed stones destroys all their efforts.

The Bangladeshi government has failed to take any action to limit the stone crushing industry at Jaflong, with the resulting high rate of erosion threatening to destroy the adjacent Khasia (indigenous people) villages within the next five years.

I recognize their troubles, I saw their hard work and I saw their happy moments as well. So, I want to offer a way to visualize this suffering society and their personal feelings.

About the photographer:

I was born to a little family in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, in 1981. I started my visual training as a photographer in 2001. In 2006, I joined Pathshala (South Asian Institute of Photography) and some visual changes happened in my life. I completed a workshop in Chobimela IV (2006). I am very inspired by my teachers Shahidul Alam and Reza Deghati. They taught me how to honor my photographic subjects. I worked as a freelancer for several daily newspapers in Bangladesh and for the photo agency Majorityworld. My photographs have been published in the Sunday Times Magazine, American Photo, National Geographic, Better Photography, Saudi Aramco World and The New Internationalist. (See my website here.)

I was one of the winners of the 2008 All Roads Photography Program of the National Geographic Society for my documentary project. In 2009, I received an Alexia Foundation Student Award for excellence. In 2009, I won the Grand Prix of “Europe and Asia — Dialogue of Cultures” International Photography Contest organized by the Museum of Photography in Russia. I have a group exhibition in Bangladesh.

I always want to document culture with my photographs and tell a story with them as a messenger for the community. My philosophy is that it is essential for the photographer to foster communication and trust with his subjects. Photography has the visual power to educate by allowing us to enter the lives and experiences of others. Through photography, I hope to help society to empathize with the hidden social, political and environmental problems that people suffer. My ongoing projects are "Jihad, a fighter of Disability," "Living Stone" and "Burning Nature, Warming Earth." It is important to realize that no documentation will ever be finished. This work informs my identity, which started at one point but has no ending.

See the work of more photographers:

Beth Dow: In a secret garden

Zoriah: America at war

Fernando Suoto: End of the trail