Abul Kalam was born in 1985 in Burgaozbil, Sittwee. He came to Bangladesh in 1996 at the age of 12 escaping discrimination and torture by the Myanmar military. He now lives in the Kutupalong Rohingya Registered Camp with his wife and 3 children. He has been working as a professional photographer for over a decade documenting the Rohingya people in Bangladesh bringing attention to their plight and ongoing struggle for recognition and rights.
His photographic journey started in 2008 when he became a field assistant to Saiful Huq Omi, a renowned Bangladeshi photographer. In late December 2019, Abul Kalam was arrested (The Guardian & RSF) whilst taking photographs of refugees leaving in buses to Bhasan Char island. A worldwide campaign was launched to call for his release with prominent personalities supporting the campaign including artist Ai Weiwei and renowned Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam. He was finally released after a few weeks. His work has been exhibited at the 19th Oxford Human Rights Festival, the Museum of Trust & Dialogue for the Mediterranean in Lampedusa and numerous other venues. His work has been widely published including by AFP, Reuters, The Daily Star, Dhaka Tribune and others.
Abul’s work is marked by a keen eye for detail and a deep emotional connection to his subjects and depicting their joys, sorrows, and struggles with powerful intimacy and sensitivity. He has a talent for capturing the subtleties of human emotion, as well as the stark realities of life in the refugee camp. ‘I want to use my photography to show the world the tragic history and suffering of my people.’ —he explains. Through his work, Abul shines a light on the broader human condition of the Rohingya people. He highlights the ongoing discrimination and violence they face, and brings attention to the urgent need for action to address these issues. His photography is not only a powerful artistic medium, but it is also a tool for social change, and a means of raising awareness about the plight of the Rohingya people. He is an inspiration to a whole new generation of Rohingya photographers interested in using photography to fulfil their own dreams.