Press Review
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Chobi Mela starts in city Pierre’s photos on display

By : Robab Rosan
November 22, 2002, Holiday

As a part of Chhabi Mela-ll, Dr. Pierre Claquin’s fourth solo photographic exhibition, titled Surviving Dreams: the Struggling Circuses of Bangladesh, began on November 17 at the gallery of Alliance Française in the city. Enam Ul Haque inaugurated the exhibition, which will run up till December 2.

In this exhibition, Pierre has displayed 45 black and white photographs on the performers of the seven circus parties across the country. The idea of working with these neglected professional groups came to Pierre’s mind when he searched for a powerful image to give the message of polio eradication to the rural people. Pierre said, ‘In 2000 when I started to ask the educated urban bhadroloks about the existence of circuses in Bangladesh, I was told that they were gone, finished by the introduction of television in rural areas.’ He continued, ‘Being a French Breton, notorious for their stubbornness, I went out to find out for myself. There were ten circuses in Bangladesh still active by mid-2002, some bigger than others but all struggling against the bureaucracy, official corruption and, at times, prejudice. Too many circuses are undergoing financial distress.’ In this exhibition, the photographer has highlighted the sorry plight of these under-privileged people and presented them as persons too.

Pierre Claquin, a French physician, came to Bangladesh first in 1972. He stayed and worked a year in Sariakandi, Bogra. Later, he came in 1975 and stayed three years as a WHO staff of the small pox eradication programme. He again came to Bangladesh in 1980 to work for the ICDDR,B for three years in 1980 and for ADB-financed Urban Primary Health Care Project for two years in 1998. He has been staying in the country since May, 1999 for the US-funded Immunisation and Other Child Health Project.

Pierre is an amateur photographer who has been working in this field from the age of 16 or 17. He arranged his first ever photo exhibition in October, 2000, displaying 45 black and white portraits of Bangladeshi people at the Alliance Française. The exhibition was also held in Chittagong in January, 2001. His second photo exhibition titled The Eastern Gallery of Berlin Wall was arranged at the Goethe Institut in 2001 in Dhaka. There he displayed some colour photographs of the Berlin Wall during its collapse. The third photography exhibition of Pierre, titled The Changing Faces of Sariakandi: 1972-2002, was held in April this year at the Alliance Française. The exhibition was also held at Sariakandi where a huge number of rural viewers came to the show. He tried to demonstrate, through that exhibition, how the people and places were changing day by day.

Pierre Claquin’s current exhibition is showing the circus people through 34 black and white photos selected from the 85 he has taken. He has a plan to publish a book on the past and present of the circus groups and their performers.

‘In Bangladesh I find many interesting subjects, full of variety’, he said. ‘I want to give messages of polio eradication through circus people because many rural people come to enjoy the circus.’
‘I think the photos in black and white help the viewers to concentrate on the subject. I also think that the black and white photos are more sober.’ He added, ‘Colour can be more distracting. Whether I work in colour or black and white depends on the subject on which I work.’
Pierre Claquin did not face any obstruction either from the local people or the circus people. He started his work on them just one and a half years ago. He tried to give two messages through his exhibition. ‘I want to tell the people of Bangladesh that they should support these circus groups, which are still a part of Bengal’s culture’.

He further said, ‘I also request the civil authorities to be more cooperative to them.’
‘I am very impressed at works of Bangladeshi photographers. There are many talented photographers in the country.’ Pierre considers the subject of a photo more important than the technical aspects but he also thinks that adequate technique is needed.
‘I am fully aware of the limitations of an outsider or foreigner presenting his Bangladeshi viewers with his work, but still it does not prevent me trying to do it.’ The photographer has worked on seven currently active circus groups across the country — the Lakshmi Narayan Circus, Lion Circus, Sonar Bangla Circus, Rowshan Circus, Rajmahal Circus, Royal Bengal Circus and the New Star Circus.