Mikey makes a point. Photo: Ihtisham Kabir
Mikey Leung likes to promote Bangladesh as a tourist destination to the rest of the world. He wrote (with Belinda Meggitt) the guidebook Bangladesh: the Bradt Travel Guide, one of two traveller's guides on Bangladesh available internationally. More recently, he started the project Positive Light, which, in his words, “will show the stunning beauty of Bangladesh to the world.”
The goal of Positive Light is to assemble photographs of Bangladesh by Bangladeshi photographers and make a coffee-table book to show off this country.
I have known Mikey for several years. Recently, I caught up with him at Dhaka's Edward M. Kennedy Center for the opening of the photographic exhibition of Positive Light.
“Why did you start this project?” I asked him.
“Because I really believe in the potential of Bangladesh,” he said. “Many people abroad think Bangladesh is not a good place to visit. I know that is not true, and I want to change that thought.”
Did he have any memorable moments during the project?
“When we started, I thought I knew Bangladesh fairly well, but when the photographs started coming in, they showed me a Bangladesh even more beautiful than the one I knew. That's when I realised that the project would succeed,” he said.
Over 700 photographs by 130 photographers were submitted for the “crowdsourced” project. Crowdsourcing is the notion of tapping into a large number of people to execute a project (outsource to a crowd.)
I asked him about tourism in Bangladesh: “What is one thing that Bangladesh can do immediately and easily to promote tourism?”
Mikey thought for a moment. “Focus on the expatriates living here. While in Bangladesh, most of them spend their time in Dhaka for work, but for holidays, they visit other countries. If they spent their vacation exploring Bangladesh instead, it would generate revenue and improve Bangladeshi tourism services and infrastructure. They could also tell their friends and family back home, generating publicity,” he said.
The ultimate goal of Positive Light is a coffee-table book on Bangladesh. The project has three sponsors including the British Council. Mikey is also leveraging “crowdfunding” - that is, obtaining small donations from a large number of people using the Internet - for funding the book and paying the photographers. This method has generated over $15000 for the project.
I asked Mikey about future projects. “I would like to print the Positive Light book in Bangladesh. Currently it is available on Blurb (an on-demand printing service) but a local printing will make it more readily available here. Then I would like to spread it worldwide.”
Positive Light was the first exhibition held at the newly opened Edward M. Kennedy Center for Public Service and the Arts in Dhanmandi. The EMK Center is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka and the Liberation War Museum. "We are delighted to host this event and look forward to more publications like this highlighting the positives in our country," said M. K. Aaref, Director of EMK Center.
I agree and I wish Mikey success in his quest.