Photographer Nasif Imtiaz's name comes up amidst those whose art transcends borders and makes us Bangladeshis proud. His photographs bring forth a face of society that not all of us might have the heart to process, but one that will always be worth discussions.
Behind all his heartfelt images lies a long and challenging journey that began in 2011. Even though it wasn't until 2014 that he got his hands on some professional equipment, it was as early as 2012, when for the first time, his photographs were featured in an exhibition at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. It was part of a photography contest at North South University, where he was completing his BBA. Nasif recalled that at the time, his only gear was a mobile phone with a 2 MP camera.
"It is all about deciding which moment to capture – that's where the art is," says the internationally published young documentary photographer. From National Geographic's Instagram photography community 'Your Shot' to The Huffington Post in Germany and Columbia University, his captures have been featured far and wide.
From the crucial scenes of the Rohingya crisis, to the unforgettable fire breakout in Chawkbazar and the vibrant celebrations of Durga Puja and Holi, Nasif is always present at all the right places at the right times to immortalise fleeting and important moments.
His most recent photography project, titled Can't Remember Anything, documents the many faces of mentally unstable patients and their everyday lives at the Pabna Mental Hospital. He tells stories of patients who have lost their sanity from domestic violence, a divorce, or a business deal gone wrong, and of those who have forever been left behind, with no guardian returning to take them back home, even though they have been cured.
Another notable work by him is one that he spent more than two years on – surreal images of drug-consuming orphans at the Kamlapur Railway Station.
What makes these photographs come to life is that Nasif doesn't just click zoom on his lenses or use a drone – he goes as up and close to his subjects as possible. "I talk to them and get to know their story in details. I take my time to convince them that their photographs are secure with me. I earn their trust and I truly empathise," he shares. "I travel to a lot of different places for my work. My subjects range from mentally unstable patients to homeless people on the streets. I am always exposed and at risk. I have received severe threats from people, who I believe really could've taken my life if they'd wanted to."
Interestingly, Nasif is also a lyricist. He has written many popular numbers, sung or composed by celebrated artistes such as Fuad and Rafa.
Nasif loves making everyone happy through his work. He recognises that wedding photography is no longer as simple as it used to be and not everyone can afford it these days. So, every wedding season, he offers to officially take photographs for people on their special day for free. "Men may not care much for it, but women do. How can they not keep pictures of the best day of their lives?," he adds.
His latest wedding photographs were of a blind couple. All of his work, mainly focusing on human rights issues such as drug abuse, child labour and mental health awareness, can be found at www.nasifimtiaz.com.