What’s the Point of Freedom if You Don’t Do Something With It? / Shahidul Alam

Aug 10, 2023

Shahidul Alam is many things: world-class photographer, Bangladeshi human rights activist, teacher, and author. He is also a provocateur, whose words and pictures force one—sometimes gently, sometimes less so—to confront reality.

Alam is also part of the Tällberg Foundation’s Global Leadership Network. In that capacity, he recently delivered a short provocation reflecting on the realities of democracy and the challenges of freedom. 

This is not the usual New Thinking for a New World conversation, but we think you’ll find it worth a listen. Let us know what you think by commenting below.

Listen to the episode here or find the New Thinking for a New World podcast on a platform of your choice (Apple podcastSpotify, Google podcastYoutube, etc).


A Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018, photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry from London University before taking up photography. Returning to Dhaka in 1984, he documented the democratic struggle to remove General Ershad. A former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up Drik agency, Bangladesh Photographic Institute, Chobi Mela festival, Majority World agency and Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA, Centre Georges Pompidou and Tate Modern and a speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, Alam guest curated at Whitechapel Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Shilpakala Padak, the highest national award given to Bangladeshi artists, as well as the Infinity and Lucie Foundation Awards. In 2020 he was given the International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists. John Morris of Life Magazine described his book “My journey as a witness” as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.” Alam introduced email to Bangladesh in the early nineties. In 2018 he was jailed for over 100 days for criticising his government. His recent book “The Tide Will Turn” is in the New York Time’s list of ‘Best Art Books of 2020’. His show “Truth to Power” currently touring the USA has received critical acclaim.


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