Bangladesh may not be at the top of most traveler’s dream destinations list, yet. With roughly 165 million people it’s one of the world’s ten most densely populated countries. Perhaps best known for it’s infamous garment production by underpaid labourers and turbulent geopolitical history (it only officially came into being as an independent state in early 1970’s after a split from Pakistan). It’s certainly not your typical vacation destination. In fact, many governments have issued strong travel advisories on the region. Nonetheless, Bangladesh may be a dream come true for some intrepid travelers, particularly those who have a passion for photography.
Professional photographer and photography instructor Etienne Bossot reveals “for people photography it’s simply amazing”. Etienne, who lives in Hoi An, Vietnam, is the founder of Pics of Asia, a photography tour and tutorial company that takes both amateur and semi-professional photographers on multi-day workshop tours. Destinations have included Central Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Bangladesh among others. Thanks in part to his photography success there, he’ll be returning to Bangladesh with two tours scheduled in late 2017.
With great animation Etienne shares anecdotes from his previous scouting trips to Bangladesh. He likens it to India, but without the tourism or touts trying to sell to you in the streets. “People are respectful and calm – though don’t misunderstand, the action is all around and you certainly won’t have time to set up a tripod” he explains. Bangladesh offers “a great combination of city, countryside and rivers”. “The stuff you see!” his eyes wide with both awe and concern, when looking back on touring the inside of various factories. “Oh, the stuff you see” he repeats, almost breathless. While I can only imagine some of the eye opening experiences that await travelers to Bangladesh, thanks to some of the photos shared by Etienne from his latest trip to the region, you’re able to get a sense of what some scenes may entail.
Lonely Planet calls Bangladesh “South Asia’s greenest jewel – a country braided with rivers, with a rich culture waiting to be explored”. Consider this a taste of what awaits adventurous travelers, whether you visit with camera in hand or simply a hunger to explore this part of the world before many others do.
Busy City Life and Immense Physical Labour
Bangladesh has the third largest Asian economy behind India and Pakistan. With over $33 billion USD of exports (primarily agriculture, heavy textiles, garments, and ship building) its citizens are incredibly hard workers. Despite this, underemployment is high, and over 31% live below the national poverty line. What does this mean for you? Really moving subject matter and remarkable physical labour abounds. Note, though mesmerizing for photos, one should always ensure safety precautions are observed when nearing any construction or heavy industry sites.
Life Woven into the Waterways
Southern Bangladesh is dominated by Ganges Delta which empties into the Bay of Bengal. There are as many as 700 major rivers running through the country, including the three largest, the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Flooding is a common threat to many, as is the daily struggle to manage a growing level of pollution and waste flowing into people’s drinking water. Exploring rivers, lakes and waterways is bound to deliver exceptional photographic content.
Powerful Faces with Rich Stories to Tell
Given its young population (over 47% are under 24, only 5% are over 65 years old), many of the moving faces you will encounter are that of youth. Etienne considers the Bangladeshi people to be exceedingly hospitable as an extension of their primarily Muslim faith, treating visitors as guests. This, coupled with the lack of a developed tourism industry means there is a great deal of curiosity towards visitors. The result is that travelers are likely to be welcomed in and your camera is not an impediment to connecting with people. There is also a growing love of selfies or self photography, so don’t be surprised if you’re actually asked to take a picture of someone, or if you become the subject.
Nature Through a New Lens
Bangladesh offers a unique mix of people and nature. Agriculture is the nation’s largest industry – with jute, rice, tea, and wheat accounting for common crops one might see when traveling rural areas. Bangladesh is home to the world’s largest natural sand sea beach, Cox’s Bazar, stretching over 125 kilometres. It also contains the world’s largest mangrove forests, Sundarbans, which is an official UNESCO World Heritage site, and home to the famed Bengal tiger. The abundance of natural beauty juxtaposed against poor infrastructure development and the people in between brings with it striking travel experiences.
All photos courtesy of Etienne Bossot. Visit his personal site to see more of his photographs from Bangladesh and throughout Asia.
Related Travel Photography Articles