Showcasing 31 photographs by 23 local photojournalists - with engaging stories from across the nation - a group exhibition titled 'Bangladesh Press Photo Contest 2023' is currently underway at the DrikPath Bhobon, Panthapath in Dhaka.

An exclusive initiative organised by Drik Picture Library, the exhibition curated by ASM Rezaur Rahman, showcases the winning and selected photographs from the 2nd annual Bangladesh Press Photo Contest. Drik launched the contest last year, lauding the practice of meaningful storytelling through quality photojournalism in the country.

Inaugurated by renowned journalist and New Age Editor Nurul Kabir on Friday, the exhibition awarded seven photographers in three categories. The award for Picture of the Year 2022 was awarded to Abdul Goni from the daily Ittefaq, who received the award for his work titled 'A Lonely Battle'.

Md Shamsul Haque Suza from Daily Global Nation received the award in the category of Arts, Culture and Sports, while United News of Bangladesh (UNB) photojournalist Abu Sufian Jewel received the honourable mention award in this category.

Mamun Hossain from the daily Kazir Bazar received the best award in the category of Politics, while the honourable mention went to Quddus Alam from Focus Bangla. Sardar Mohammad Rafiul Islam from BPS received the best award in the Public Interest Journalism category while the honourable mention went to Md Rafayat Haque Khan from Zuma Press.

Sharing his experience of being awarded the top prize in the competition which received more than 1500 photographs this year, Abdul Goni told UNB that he is elated. "This is the first time I have been awarded the top prize in any competition in my career and I am grateful to the judges for this honour," he said.

"On April 15 last year when a fire broke out in a plastic factory in the capital's Shaheed Nagar area, I saw a courageous elderly individual trying earnestly to put out the fire from the balcony of a nearby building. He was alone in the building as everyone was already moving out fearing the massive fire, and while even the fire brigade was facing a hard time against the fire, he stood against the flame with just a hose pipe.

"I struggled to capture this image because this symbolized courage to me, and I believe even if we stand alone but in unity against havoc and calamities like these, we can always hope for a better tomorrow," Goni told UNB.

Two photographs of UNB photojournalist Abu Sufian Jewel are being displayed at the exhibition. One of the pictures, showing some children engaging in a spirited game of football in the picturesque hills of the Nilachal area, Bandarban, received the honourable mention award in the Arts, Culture and Sports category.

"I captured the moment in September last year which took me back to my childhood; and even without many urban facilities that children in the cities get, they were enjoying their afternoon on the eve of the FIFA World Cup 2022 through a sport which has always been immensely popular in the country. I am grateful to the judges and Drik for considering me for the honourable mention award in the category," Jewel told UNB.

"All these images are narrating outstanding visual stories, and the contexts of these photographs are familiar to us in the setting of our country. These photographs are really fascinating and the dedication of the photojournalists is vividly reflected in each photograph," Nafisa Tabassum, a school teacher, said while visiting the exhibition.

The esteemed jury board of the competition comprised photographer, editor and educator Abir Abdullah; Dhaka University Mass Communication and Journalism Department Professor Gitiara Nasreen, renowned cinematographer Rashed Zaman, Indian editor, curator and writer Tanvi Mishra and eminent photographer and Drik Picture Library Managing Director Shahidul Alam.This year's exhibition and competition introduced a special Community Grant Programme titled 'Photojournalism in the Margins' for photographers from the indigenous community of Chattogram Hill Tracts and the Rohingya community residing in Bangladesh.

Paddmini Chakma from Rangamati was selected as this year's grant recipient with an amount of Tk 50,000 while Ro Abdullah from Cox's Bazar's Kutupalong camp was chosen from the Rohingya community who will benefit from a mentorship program provided by Drik to enhance his visual and storytelling skills.

As the top prize winner in the competition, Goni received Tk 1,00,000 as prize money while the rest of the winners and honourable mentions in each category received Tk 50,000 and Tk 10,000, respectively, along with crests and certificates of honour.

"Even in the age of fake news, the press photograph remains the most trusted source of news, and the press photographer is the most threatened professional. In recent years, Bangladeshi photographers have been celebrated across the globe, yet there is no formal recognition of their collective talent or the valuation of their contribution to the nation," according to the organisers.

To celebrate the achievements of these courageous individuals who tirelessly gather news on the frontlines, Drik initiated the Bangladesh Press Photo Contest in 2022, featuring photographs from 2021. Similarly, in January of this year, photojournalists were invited to submit pictures taken in 2022, thus resulting in the 2023 exhibition and competition.

The ongoing exhibition of Bangladesh Press Photo Contest 2023 will remain open to the public till June 18, every day from 3 pm to 8 pm.

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