Mohammed Shahjahan, a 33-year-old Bangladeshi photojournalist whose photo "Mom Love" won the first prize in Istanbul Photo Awards 2021, described the honor as "the best achievement of my life."
The Istanbul Photo Awards is a photography contest held annually by Turkey’s top news agency Anadolu Agency to support photojournalists.
In the seventh edition of the awards, jury members deliberated on more than a thousand photographers’ works before selecting a handful of images as winners.
"Taking part in this competition with around 15,000 photographs was challenging as well as adventurous for me," Shahjahan, who won $6,000 for his photo, told Anadolu Agency. "Winning the award is the best achievement in my photography career so far."
Last year when panic gripped Bangladesh (as in the rest of the world) due to the rapid spread of coronavirus, Shahjahan went out and documented human stories – of sorrow and pain, but also love and sacrifice.
His submission “Mom Love” was one of the photos where one sees the love and emotion of a daughter toward her COVID-19-infected mother. In home quarantine, Mahmuda Khanom, 44, tries to smell birthday flowers left on the other side of the door by her daughter on June 26, 2020, in the city of Chattogram.
Born in an ordinary family, Shahjahan was always interested in photography. “I have had a great attraction to photography since childhood," he said. To polish his skills, he took a photography course at the Photo Art Institute in Bangladesh's southern port city of Chattogram.
Now that he is an established photographer, he is teaching, giving workshops and seminars to aspiring young photographers regularly, and has been on the jury of many local photography contests.
“Photography is my only dream, I want to continue it throughout my life, capturing the cheerful as well as melancholic moments of life through the camera," he said.
Besides caring for one's safety, he said the most challenging part of being a freelance photojournalist is "to be present at the right place at the right time and capture the perfect moment."
He also lamented the "lack" of technical and logistic support to pursue creative arts in his country. “It was challenging for me to choose this profession as my family wished for me to have a stable government job. But I have never turned away from my dream,” he said.
Hoping to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize one day, he said: “The Istanbul Photo Awards inspired me to dream of such a great recognition, despite living in a remote city of Bangladesh."
About the selection of subjects in photography, he said: “I always try to take a photo that carries a story, a human story, and gives people a message."
He said a good photo can convey a revolutionary message to the masses that could inspire them to bring a change in society.
Calling photographers as one of the front runners in a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, Shahjahan urged the international community to increase support for aspiring photographers worldwide.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.