Throughout her life, Tahia Farhin Haque has been fascinated by images and by how they can change perceptions and internal paradigms. At the age of 19, her photos were selected for various inter-university exhibitions. In 2018, Tahia was also exhibited at the iconic Aperture Foundation in New York. She hopes to give voice to the issues that are unheard of and unseen in the world.
In 2018 Tahia worked in collaboration with New York times and UN women called "This is 18" photographing an 18-year-old Bangladeshi girl and what it meant to be 18 in the year 2018 for a girl, a project from The New York Times (@nytgender), she represented Bangladesh and got published at New York Times. She was featured in their official Instagram account where they showed a small portion of her work were 700000 people witnessed it all over the world.
Then she went on to showcase her work at Serendipity Festival 2019 and Dhaka Art Summit 2020. She exhibited her work for the curatorial show "Look, Stranger!" at Serendipity Festival. She exhibited her series named 'I could not save you'.
After that, she was one of the finalists of the Samdani Art Award 2020. Being the youngest in the pool of finalists, she exhibited her series 'Shadows of a wooden house', which is a tribute to her father and family who travelled during the riots in 1947.
She was also the reportage winner of Document Journal's competition "The Vanguard Award" in 2018 and had the exhibition at Aperture Gallery New York. She is studying biochemistry at North South University and had studied professional photography at CounterFoto.
TBS: Why did you choose photography?
TFH: The desire to create art is ingrained into my very being; expressing my perspective through art is what I do and who I am. From a very young age, I was fascinated by art and loved going to art exhibitions. I had come across a few great photographers and artists while growing up, and they all inspired me to look for an outlet to express myself. A photograph is an exact moment in time captured to live on forever, expressing itself. Once I got access to my first smartphone, I had the tool to express my thoughts, emotions and experiences. To be able to capture a moment which tells a story and induces provoking conversations due to the perspective highlighted in the frame; is an absolute delight that drives my desire to take photographs.
TBS: How would you define your photographic style? What is your photographic language?
TFH: I like to capture poignant moments. I am always looking for a story and portray a thought with the visuals I frame. I have been fond of a particular colour scheme (black and white) and tone in my images. Because I would like my photographs to be viewed attentively so that the audience can comprehend the nuances I am trying to highlight in each photograph rather than being engulfed in colours.
I always inclined to portray the different perspectives of and gaze towards women. A woman's perspective is often overlooked in art and art magazines. I want my photographs to highlight a woman's journey and the countless and diverse obstacles she has to overcome daily.
In most of my work, I try to create conceptualized visuals based on my experiences and a mesh between reality and perceived reality present in society.
TBS: There are a lot of veiled women in your works. So many shadows, silhouettes and sometimes flashy or underexposed ones as well. As if the real stories are hidden. Why is that?
TFH: It also comes from a very personal aspect of my life. I wear a veil from a very young age and as I grew up it became a choice in my attire as well. Most women have a veiled side to their journey. A part of their story they are not able to express due to the numerous social stigmas present in society.
Empathy is born from understanding. I like creating conceptualized images that provoke conversations about the various aspects of a woman's journey.
The experiences of a woman in our patriarchal society are sometimes unfathomable. The perception and emotion of a woman need to be comprehended by the entire society.
Colors often come with preconceived connotations and emotions in people's minds, which may dilute the viewer's outlook and it might cause them to overlook the minute details in the photograph that help tell the entire story.
Shadows are quite interesting to me; they resemble the darkness that exists around us and yet the opportunity to break free of it. I believe shadows or light are not darkness or goodness rather what we are taught of them. To me, shadows are mesmerizing. As I said earlier, beauty and ugliness where do they come from, who decides which is horror and which is ethereal, who made this book I wonder.
Hands fascinate me. How a subject's hands are positioned in an image and the posture of the individual- all tell a story because experiences leave behind imprints that can be observed in body language. Hands are what I believe save us, and in turn, most essential hands can be many meanings.
TBS: In this pandemic, what kind of challenges do you face in your professional life? How is this affecting you?
TFH: I am an outgoing individual and I like interacting with people and sharing stories about our collective human experience in this wild world. I am a photographer who loves exploring different places and capturing intriguing moments and individuals. The pandemic has put a stop to all of the above actions. Due to the COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown, it has been difficult to get out of the house and capture the real-life stories happening on the streets.
For a girl, it has become quite difficult to explore the intriguing world around us. Hence, a lot of assignments and exhibitions have been postponed or cancelled. I had to forego a few assignments due to the restrictions. This has been mentally challenging and I felt like my artistic flow was getting stifled. Still, upon introspective reflection, I realized the world has changed forever and the new normal of a post-pandemic world is the one I would have to navigate and hence have to harness the required skills to flourish.
TBS: Is this pandemic impacting your photographic style or language?
TFH: I am quite fond of wandering the streets of our vibrant city looking out for beautiful moments to capture. I like to capture subjects in action oblivious to the camera in their world, doing something simple yet out of the ordinary. People in the streets all have their stories and their activities and mannerism are quite fascinating to capture to show a concept I had visualized. Due to the pandemic the ability to get into the thick of the work and get surprised as a photographer by something remarkable amidst all the mundane ordinary activities; is something I dearly miss.
But I don't believe the essence of an artist changes, the viewpoint changes, subjects, stories change but my drive to tell stories has not changed. Albeit the new world has made me slow down in the harsh reality which we call life. At the same time, I wonder and fathom what role of an artist is in this new world, I have gone through a trauma in the last few weeks, my father was critically ill, that has also made me a question and focus on family life and taking care of it. I have been extremely fortunate during that time how people came to help me, I believe a lot of people loved my work as well as me and I am at the core of it an artist, my only desire is to create and tell stories. Pandemic has impacted me and a lot of friends and family I hope they can find solace and hope in the form of art, as art can be therapeutic as well.
TBS: Your present work about the pandemic- "Colors of Confinement". Tell us about it-which colours have you found so far?
TFH: The pandemic and the lockdown have been challenging. During the initial stages of the lockdown, I had started experimenting with inanimate objects around the house. I became interested in the vibrant natural colours of our daily life against the different backdrops around the house. As I began getting acclimated with the confinement and restrictions, I slowly started finding ways to create art with things and places in my home and even my family members became subjects with whom I could work with and tell a story. Playing around with natural light and the drapes on the window and the different light sources around my house along with inanimate household objects, vegetables and their colours have been a pleasant source of inspiration and working with all the restrictions regarding movement has undoubtedly been new and intriguing.
I intended to use colours and inanimate household objects to portray different emotional states I was experiencing during the lockdown. Each composition has a connection between the arrangement of the purpose and the colours in the image. Each photo showed my mental stages on that particular day, colours showing the strength of emotions, be it red yellow or a mixture of colours.
TBS: The country is going through an economic crisis now. How do you think the creative field can cope with this?
TFH: The whole world is going through a crisis. Artists and photographers are going to find themselves in a unique space. Exhibitions and festivals may take some time to get back to full swing.
Artists now have to be aware of the projects they undertake and the medium they choose for expression. Art is always going to be there and in times of a pandemic, art will be the torchbearer for joy and hope. As artists, we need to consciously work on painting a picture that expresses the story of our collective struggle as humans and simultaneously encapsulates all the emotions involved. I use the word empathy a lot, and I have to reiterate it repeatedly so that we present our work in a way that is inclusive and free of bigotry. When reality is a nightmare, it's up to the artists to bring art that can give a sense of belonging and bring us together. It's necessary more than ever to create art that is free of racism, sexism, and bigotry and makes us feel happy and hopeful again.
Artists and curators all over the world have to come together to assist and complement each other's work. Now more than ever before, we should all hold each other up and not put anybody down. As artists, it is almost our responsibility to showcase the harsh realities of our times while simultaneously portraying the beauty of hope.