Eminent photographer Nasir Ali Mamun started collecting artworks since 1972 from his urge to know the secret behind each artistic mind. The collection includes works of maestros like Quamrul Hassan, SM Sultan, Paritosh Sen, Jogen Chowdhury and many more from Bangladesh and India.
An interesting fact about the artworks to be on display at Shilpangan Gallery is that most of them are done by people who enthusiastically created them as gifts to the photographer. Behind such gift-giving, there was this relentless effort by Mamun, who built rapport with eminent people, including artists of considerable fame.
Mamun started portrait photography in the '70s when it was not in vogue.
"There was no proper documentation back in those days," with this thought in mind, Mamun started offering influential people their portraits. He offered them black and white portraitures.
"They would receive the photographs without having to bear the hassle of going to a studio," said Mamun who remained resolute when many of them dismissed his pursuit as frivolous and unimportant.
"They laughed at me, mocked at my attempt at the beginning as the concept was not clear to them. I was offering the services of a studio. In fact, I was taking the studio to their doorsteps. Eventually, they got accustomed to it," Mamun related.
He was new to photography and needed to make his subjects to learn patience. So he began to apply his own method to make them sit for him.
"I would capture their portraiture and in return I would collect a piece of artwork from each of them," said Mamun by way of an explanation.
If the current exhibition features artworks by artists, his prior show "in 2012, at Bengal Gallery, exhibited works by people who had never made artworks before."
"If Bangabandhu were alive, I would have asked him to draw a portrait too," said Nasir.
Starting photography way back in 1968 in a playful manner, by 1972 Mamun started using professional camera. He borrowed his first camera and began framing portraits.
Back then, in every studio, there was only one person who would retouch photographs. "But I never understood why we need to retouch photos. Retouching a photo takes away the actual look of a subject," Mamun pointed out.
At his 60s, Mamun has many storied to tell. "Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins came to Bangladesh on their goodwill tour on the same year when man first landed on the moon. When they were heading towards their hotel through Tejgaon airport road, I was keen on capturing that moment but I did not have any instrument. Again, during 1970, I wanted to capture events that held a great deal of importance in bringing Bangladesh to what it is today. I saw what was going on but I could not portray it," mentioned Mamun.
Regarding portraiture his notion unambiguous. He believes in the originality and nobility of a portrait.
"Black and white as a medium has its uniqueness. The things we cannot see are the things that attract us the most. The world around you is full of colours and when you make something using only two colours, people appreciate," said Mamun.
Mamun's unique way of indulging in his subjects and bringing out the reality on his frame has inspired many individuals. Some in return, have gifted him with artworks, as did KG Subramanyan and Quamrul Hassan, the two titans of modern art representing India and Bnagaldesh.
"My collection is not complete yet. It will keep growing as long as I am alive," Mamun added.
His collection will be on display at Shilpangan Gallery till January 11, 2020. Also, in the coming year, Nasir Ali Mamun's solo photography exhibition will take place on March 6 at Alliance Française de Dhaka, which will only display his portraits of Bangabandhu to celebrate a hundred years of his birthday.