Stories from the Road: Fabric in my Face, Bangladesh

Stories from the Road is a collection of stories about my own photographic adventures in South Asia. Sometimes the stories are exciting and sometimes mundane and at times emotional. This section deals with vernacular photography and the way we all experience the photographs we see. What they meant when we took them and what they mean over time.

Have you ever been on the most crowded street in the world? I have. Dhaka is known for having some of the worst traffic in the world; however, before I went I never imagined it would be of the pure human variety. The photograph I chose for this week’s Stories from the Road is from my 2015 trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Before traveling to Dhaka, I did research on the city and knew that it would be more chaotic than India and it was. This photograph reminds me of some specific details and I hope I never forget them.

The photograph above shows a close up of bolts of denim fabric. Across the top of the photograph are two bolts seen from the side where the bottom of the photograph is covered with the side of another fabric bolt. The photograph is cut in half by these two views of the fabric. The bolts on top are also just about centered, cutting the photograph into three sections. There is also a red rope cutting vertically through the frame a little right of center. Compositionally this is not a complicated photograph. However, it does use some elements and principles of design to make the composition more interesting.

Color and line are the most significant design elements being used in the composition. Blue is the dominant color with a hint of red. The canvas of blue makes the red rope pop and become more of a focal point. Lines are important in the composition because they are covering the composition. In the top of the photograph the lines are created by the sides of the fabric creating circles. In the bottom of the photograph lines are created by the folds of the fabric. The last line is created through the rope. These lines help the viewers eyes move through the composition. However, the most important aspect of the photograph to me was my own view point.

A viewer of this photograph might think I used a telephoto lens. But I did not. Well I was using a 50mm lens on a non-full frame digital camera, so technically it is slightly telephoto. However, I was literally standing right behind a cart with these bolts of denim on them. I took this photograph in Old Dhaka. My mother and I had just left the Pink Palace (a historic building built by the British) and we were headed down the street to find one of the photography exhibitions (as we were in Dhaka for Chobi Mela VIII). It was a Sunday and it was super busy. As we walked down the street it became more and more clogged with people, carts and bicycle rickshaws. At one point we literally could not move, my mother and I were boxed in on all sides and directly in front of us was the cart carrying the denim. I had to take the photograph. We stood there for several minutes with nowhere to go. No one was moving. It was just like a traffic jam in a car, only there were only people. Who knew this could happen, not me. As the “traffic” began to move again a bicycle rickshaw ran into me. Oh man, I am always getting hit in traffic, but at least no one is ever going fast. Even funnier to me, I think about my mom and what she must have been thinking standing there as this was her first trip off of the North American continent.

Traveling, so funny. I love this photograph because it reminds me of this crazy moment in Old Dhaka. However, I also really like this photograph compositionally. It is one of my favorite photographs from the trip. Someday I will make a large print of it and hang it on my wall. I will have to ask my mom if she remembers this moment or the cart of denim in front of us.

Happy Travels!

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Stories from the Road: Scaffolding, Khajuraho, India
Stories from the Road: Worship in Stone, Khajuraho, India

By |2018-10-15T12:32:59-05:00November 29th, 2016|Bangladesh|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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