Tue, 03 October 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

A book report of 'Sekaler chhobiwala'

Update : 15 Feb 2023, 12:19

Photography has become a craze today. But it wasn't like that forever. People used to feel very nervous even when the photography started. Even the photographer himself used to intimidate the people who came to take pictures, so that they would maintain their exposure patiently. Because at that time, if you wanted to take photograph, you would have to stand or sit for half an hour. By reading the book 'Sekaler chhobiwala' by author Tareq Aziz, one can know the many unknown events that have happened since the invention of photography.

The author has undoubtedly put a lot of effort into this highly researched book. Anyone who reads the book may feel that he is a resident of that primitive world of photography. This is like an exciting journey through time!

From the story of the discovery of individual photography techniques by Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839, to the arrival of photography in India, its entry into Bengal, the art of photography in the early days, the reaction of common Bengali people, the rise of prominent professional photographers and studios, and many other unknown facts- the author’s effort is to be applauded.

Although there are a few studies on the ancient history of photography and professional photographers in West Bengal, 'Sekaler chhobiwala' is the first detailed work on the early history of photography in East Bengal i.e. present Bangladesh. The journey of the book began with the collection of some faded old photographs of the author's ancestors. He got the photo restored with the help of a hobbyist Facebook group. There, he found a photo taken by Mr. Kapp. It was posted by Ms. Janet Conway. German photographer Fritz Kapp came to Dhaka in the early 20th century. The inquisitive writer found out some great facts about Fritz Kapp. Fritz Kapp, who started his business as a photographer in Calcutta, became very close to Nawab Ahsanullah since his Calcutta days. With financial support  from the Nawab family of Dhaka, Fritz Kapp started his studio business in Wiseghat  and till date that studio is recorded as the first photographic studio of Dhaka. In Fritz Kapp's 'Curzon Collection', numerous rare photographs of the Dhaka city of that time have been captured on camera. This German gentleman has captured the stories of people, environment and buildings not only of Dhaka but also of many regions of Bangladesh. Several events in his personal life are also connected with Dhaka. One of his daughters died during his stay in Dhaka and is said to have been buried in the Christian cemetery at Narinda.

Author’s curiosity and quest was not limited to Fritz Kapp only. After exploring Kapp’s life, he started discovering works of different foreign and domestic photographers, who started their studio business in this subcontinent, especially in Bengal. There were a few native photographers, who started their career as assistants to English photographers and later launched their own  studio business.

Collecting authentic information has always been a challenge. However, finding the relevant photographs was not a trivial matter! The author has done that daunting task successfully and has also discovered several new information by collecting those faded photographs from people whose ancestor lived in Dhaka and East Bengal. Interestingly, not all pictures reveal the truth. For example, most of the pictures of the hunter posing with a gun on a dead tiger were set up by photographers and different people took pictures in the same setup. In most families, all the family members were captured in a single photograph. If a personal photo of someone in such a family was needed, the photo would be cut and enlarged as needed.

Many other professional photographers such as Johnston from the famous Johnston & Hoffmann studio visited Dhaka on an invitation from the Nawab family. Not all the people involved in taking photos of this region were professionals.  One such person was Brenand, professor of mathematics at Dhaka College. Among the native photographers were Hiralal Sen of Manikganj, Anand Kishore of Dhaka, Charuchandra Guha, Sasibhushan of Khulna and many others. Over the years, taking photographs got popularity on various occasions such as birth, death, marriage, educational achievements. European-born people who traveled long distances with expensive and complicated photographic equipment came to these remote areas to establish the idea of photography.  Native photographers took great care to preserve the precious images of that time and captured countless memories on their camera. To ensure that their efforts are not wasted, the book  'Sekaler chhobiwala' has set an unprecedented precedent.

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