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Dhaka 2013: Interview of Graciela Iturbide


When Shahidul invited me to exhibit some of my work at the festival I started by browsing and sifting through my past work to see what would fit best for the theme “Fragility”. So I came upon this series of photographs of plants that are recovering in botanical gardens. I remember enjoying how the farmers were taking care of the plants. Putting veils and ropes on them. It seems to me that out of all the projects I’ve done this one has the deepest connection to the fragility of nature in general. The photographs were taken in different parts of the world but mostly in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Oaxaca pictures were later also published in the book ‘Naturata’.

Well. the project started in 1997 when I took my first photograph of a palm tree. I tend to travel a lot but I would always come back to Oaxaca to document the developments at the Ethnobotanical Garden up until it was finally finished. I never actually took pictures inside the finished botanical garden, because what I enjoyed documenting was the process of how the plants recovered. To answer your question, let’s say that I worked about three years on the project.

I’m also planning to go to the Botanical Garden of Dhaka but yesterday when I paid a visit to Old Dhaka city I took a photograph of a tree surrounded by wires and cables. It’s an example of how the tree or nature is entrapped by the city. In my opinion they should save the tree. (laugh)

Shahidul invited me various times to visit the festival but due to other obligations I never had the chance to come. But this time I said, “No, I have to go”. I have much respect for Shahidul, and I felt that I really had to come to the festival.

What really stands out for me is how nice and welcoming the people of Dhaka are. They are very helpful. And everyone wants their picture taken! Mawa, my assistant here, she is great. She’s been showing me around the city and thanks to her I got to see lots of places that I simply wouldn’t have found on my own.

Right now I to take many portrait photographs. Since I’ve only just arrived I like to ‘make contact’ with people through portrait photography. It establishes a certain complicity between me and them. For me it is very important when I come to a new country to get close to its people…

For me the camera and photography is an excuse for getting to know people and the world. Always. I’m not from here so these pictures will be like a travel journal where I document the experiences I make here. When here I really want to steep myself in Bangladeshi culture and soak everything up Chobi Mela and all. And I love Bangladesh from what I’ve seen so far. On the first day I was a bit scared, seeing the manic traffic and all the people, but by day two their kindness swept all my doubts away. It’s great.

Graciela Iturbide

Chobi Mela – International Festival of Photography
January 25 to February 7, 2013
House 58, Road 15A (New),
Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209

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