“By default a photograph stores the past, but it also has the ability to project itself in the future." Sarker Protick on his photo essay recognised by World Press Photo today
What Remains, which won 2nd Prize in Daily life, Stories in World Press Photo announced today, is a touching portrait of a Bangladeshi couple struggling with old age. Sarker Protick, their grandson, relies on subtlety, simplicity and visual minimalism to draw the viewer into their realm and elicit sympathy. The outcome comes as an inevitable shock. “I find it intriguing how things change with time in our life – relationships and surroundings as well as how we live on with death, loss, disappearance and all that remains,” says Protick. “By default a photograph stores the past, but it also has the ability to project itself in the future. Somewhere there’s a point where time doesn’t work linearly anymore. Timelessness, that’s the point I want to reach.”
Protick didn’t set out to be a photographer but in late 2008, while he was studying for a BA in marketing, his mother gave him a cell phone with a built-in camera. He started taking pictures of anything and everything, especially his friends, and once he graduated, enrolled at Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography. He never looked back. “It basically changed everything,” he says. Today his work is shown in international festivals, from Chobi Mela to Noordelicht, Dhaka Art Summit to the Tokyo Month of Photography, and he teaches at his old college.
The photographer likens his practice to music, which he played when he was younger. “This made me very conscious of how to move towards a coherent body of work,” he says, but he tries not to create stories that are too literal. Instead keeping an open mind, using still lifes or landscapes, whichever is most appropriate, but always including portraits. To him, they are “fundamental”.