Yask Desai is Melbournian artist who spent a long period of time in Bangladesh exploring the social and cultural landscape of Dhaka’s City Dockyard. His photographs were exhibited in Dhaka in April, 2010, in a show supported by the Australian High Commission. From October 14th onwards they will be on display in Collingwood’s Off the Kerb gallery space.
In Australia, we rarely hear about Bangladesh. Even when we do we are told that half the population lives on less than $1 a day and the low-lying land makes it susceptible to rising sea levels. Extreme poverty and disaster distance it from our daily lives. Desai’s photos attempt to remind his Australian viewers of our common humanity that defies the boundaries of geography and circumstance.
Desai writes about his own work:
My work in the dockyard area of Dhaka seeks to express the importance that the right to work provides to individuals, families and their wider community. The greatest cliché of photography authored in Bangladesh has become the exercise of documenting the harsh conditions in the countries ship breaking yards. Much of this work has been outstanding, and of course very crucial in bringing to the worlds notice the extreme difficulties that many ship yard workers face.
I believe it is also important to foreground individuals who labor within this environment so that they are recognisable to my audience as more than just nameless victims of exploitation. I want to highlight both the workers but also their families as unique characters who have lives that are composed a myriad of moments and emotions much like the lives of the viewers of my photographs. In this way I modestly hope that my photographs help to build an empathy towards my subjects and their dignified struggle to survive in a very difficult environment.