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  • Writer's pictureAhtaram Shin

Street Vendors of the Rohingya Camp: A Photo-Essay by Md Zubair

At the break of dawn, amidst the squalid conditions of a Rohingya refugee camp, 20-year-old Md Zubair embarks on a journey to document the lives of those who make the streets their marketplace. With his mobile camera in hand, he captures the essence of survival and resilience manifested through street vending. Zubair's work shines a light on a vibrant yet challenging aspect of camp life, where vendors, including children and the elderly, sell everything from dried fish and lemons to puffed rice and bottle gourds.

Zubair's photographs tell a story deeper than just commerce; they reveal the harsh reality of child labor and the necessity driving many children to support their families due to inadequate food rations. "I see the hardship and the struggle, but also the strength and the perseverance," Zubair reflects. "These streets are more than just a place of business; they're a testament to the spirit of my people."

Through his lens, Zubair captures not only the transactions but also the interactions—moments of laughter, bargaining, and daily routines that knit the fabric of community life. His photo-essay brings to the forefront the untold stories of Rohingya street vendors: the young boy selling amra fruit with hopes of contributing to his family's income, the elderly man offering dried cuttlefish, his hands telling stories of decades past, and families that rely on the small income from selling homemade snacks.

Zubair's journey into street photography has not been without its challenges. Limited by the technology at hand and searching for a platform to share his work, he nonetheless persists, driven by a determination to showcase the reality of life in the camp. His efforts were bolstered by a photography workshop led by Ro Yassin Abdumonab and Sahat Zia Hero, which eventually led to his involvement with the Rohingyatographer Magazine.

"This photo-essay is not just a collection of images; it's a call to awareness and understanding," Zubair states. "It's about showing the world the resilience, the suffering, and the hope that exists within the confines of this camp. My aim is to document these lives, to tell the stories that often go unnoticed, and to convey the message that Rohingya lives matter." Through his photography, Zubair not only documents daily life but also inspires a conversation about hope, survival, and the human spirit.



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