Photojournalist @ IUB
Nazia Fairuz Tuba
IT is not everyday that our motherland receives the honor of a great international personality's arrival. When it does happen, it's as an incredible opportunity to portray our nation in a non-stereotypical light. However, for Geoffrey Hiller it is the utmost natural surrounding that has been captured in his photographs.
Geoffrey Hiller ranks amongst the world's top photographers. He is a photojournalist and multimedia producer who is interested in the social issues in people's lives and cultures that he captures in his photographs. He has worked as a photographer for over 30 years and since 1995 has earned numerous awards from Adobe, the Exploratorium Museum and Yahoo Site of the Week for producing multimedia work. His photographs have been published in Geo, Mother Jones, Colors, The New York Times Magazine and numerous publications in Italy, Japan, France and Germany. He is here in Bangladesh for five months as a Fulbright Scholar to teach interactive media in the department of Media and Communication of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), and also to work on some photography projects. I, being a student of Media and Communication of IUB, had the unique opportunity to interview this lighthearted and passionate photographer inquiring about the plans of his stay.
The major part of Hiller's career demands traveling. He has extended projects in Europe, Asia, Latin America and West Africa. He has been traveling for the past 25 years to many South-East Asian countries including India and Burma. When he came across IUB being listed as a place where Fulbright Scholars could come and work in the journalistic department, he grabbed the opportunity with much interest. Hiller stated that he has some general ideas about teaching interactive media that includes teaching multimedia, meaning to incorporate different media elements such as audio, video and still photography, and creating web documentaries for people to see online. Initially he decided to begin the course by teaching the students how to create their own blogs and learn to publish on the web, through which also making learners aware of Web 2.0. Hiller claims to be a mere advocate for using these tools in a meaningful way to reach out to people. In his view people involved in creating blogs, a part of citizen journalism, are very professional and have great deal of knowledge about the subjects of writing. It was through the blogs that he became greatly informed about Bangladesh. Besides teaching, Hiller is also interested in conducting a photography workshop in IUB.
When asked about his experience outside of the classroom, he admitted being impressed by the average man on the streets and said it was like a breath of fresh air. Within his first weeks of stay he had taken more than 1500 photographs, with at least half involving interactions with the people. His guesthouse in Baridhara gives him the liberty to walk to the neighboring areas including Boshundhara and Kamal Ataturk. He mentioned that in some strange way the neighborhood seems familiar to him as it reminds him of Nepal. He met people that casually invited him to have tea with them on the sidewalk tea-stalls and some even invited him to their home to simply exchange thoughts. He believes Bangladesh is a very poor country with people having very little, but at the same time they are very generous. Outside of the neighboring areas he has also been to New Market, Farmgate and Old Dhaka.
All of Hiller's projects and other documentaries can be found at his personal website at www.hillerphoto.com. Hiller also created a blog about his stay in Bangladesh called Adventures In Dhaka and Beyond which can be accessed at http://banglaphoto.wordpress.com.
Another website that Hiller is quite interested about is www.vervephoto.wordpress.com where blogs about young documentary photographers from around the world including several from Dhaka can be found with a new image added everyday. It is through verve photo that he met few Bangladeshi photojournalists whose work has impressed him at a global level.
The advent of the Internet has led Hiller to reinvent himself. His web documentaries and sites show a new line of journalism that combines the traditional with the modern. In some way he agrees with the attribution that is given to him in a story posted, calling him a “post-modern photojournalist”. So far Hiller plans to work on a number of projects in Bangladesh about garment workers and the Baul culture in Kushtia.
(Student of Media and Communication, IUB, Dhaka)