Rahul Talukder: award-winning documentary photographer

Raiyan Momen | Published: 00:00, Aug 26,2018 | Updated: 09:43, Aug 26,2018


Rahul Talukder during the interview.

Starting out with a Handycam bought by his father which could only take 15 photos at a go, Rahul Talukder, a young Bangladeshi photographer has taken the country to international level by bagging multiple prestigious awards. Raiyan Momen takes an interview of the photographer to know more about what drives him to do great works.

Rahul Talukder, a young Bangladeshi documentary photographer who won several international awards in his short photography career, came to spotlight for his outstanding photo series during Rana Plaza incident where he worked for 19 days straight. Although it has been 5 years since the incident, the photos are still very fresh in his memory and they remind him of those 1,134 souls.

The story of his growing passion for photography began when his father bought him a Handycam which had only 8MB of memory and he could only take 15 photos at a time, so he would be very selective about taking photos. He even used cell phone cameras too.


In 2009 he managed to collect money to buy his first DSLR after overcoming quite the hardships of the student life. He started uploading his photos in different photography websites such as Flickr and then joined various photography groups. By the end of 2009 he joined a Flickr group called ‘Through the Lens’ (TTL) and went to many photo-walks with other photographers. It is then he realised that he had been taking photographs just out of pure passion and would then change it into his profession.

He joined Pathshala in 2011 to study documentary photography. This is where he got to learn more about different photography genres and subjects. After exploring all the aspects of photography he found street photography to be the most interesting and important because it portrayed the change in culture, society’s perception, way of living, tradition, fashion trends, human expression over the course of time. And according to him he could capture all these moments of transition through street photography which was the reason for him to delve into this specific type of photography.

Since then, he started working on different subjects such as socio-political and cultural issues from Bangladesh. In 2014, he won the World Press Photo Award in the Spot News story category. He has been awarded in various categories along with the highly commended Ian Parry Scholarship 2014, being runner up in the Alexia Foundation Student Grant 2015. He is also one of the winners of Sony World Photography Awards 2015 – professional category, PX3 Prix de la Photographie, Magnum Photos 30 Under 30 & 4th LumixFoto Festival – Freelens Award. His works have appeared in several foreign News Media such as New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Sunday Times and many other international media.

The young photographer doesn’t believe in using too many extra camera gears for taking a photograph, instead he would rather capture the moment at its best natural condition. To him, carrying extra weight for street photography is always a hassle. In addition, he says, ‘Gear is not an important factor in photography rather it is important how you see things and how you can portray them.’

- Rahul Talukder

Of all the subjects he is more interested in the youth of the street, since their change is usually very swift and drastic. One such subject is the punk group in the old Dhaka. Rahul says, ‘There are some interesting characters in Dhaka, for example there is a punk gang, they have a unique way of dressing up, hairstyle and everything about them is what I would call punk style.’ It is a group of kids whose appearance is influenced through the online social media and television, wearing colourful attires, and having bizarre hairstyles. Another group would be the kids who are involved in political agendas without even having the slightest idea about politics, who takes part in the political processions holding the party banners and screaming out slogans.

In 2013 Rahul Talukder was very emotionally moved by the infamous incident of Rana plaza in Savar. After reaching the spot of horrific massacre, he couldn’t figure out where to start from. To him it was like a Battle field and he felt terrible. He saw that a huge building of eight floors collapsed and turned into a three-storeyed building like a sandwich and a huge mass of people were running to and fro. He spent 19 days taking photos of the aftermath of incident. He clicked a number of photos where average local civilians were taking it upon themselves, risking their lives to help out the victims dead or alive trapped in the huge debris of the building. He was left in awe witnessing the courage and bravery of the civilians taking part in the rescue whereas the police officers and fire-fighters did not dare to go in and seek out the victims. He portrayed a story through his photos of the collapsed building, lost lives, the hopelessness of waiting, the grief of losing a close relative, the sight of innocent immobile lives, and the bravery of civilians taking part in the rescue. Rahul says, ‘Rana plaza in one of my important works because this is a catastrophic man-made disaster and I felt this should be documented.’

He thinks photography career in Bangladesh is very competitive and there are a lot of qualified photographers around the country doing very well. So it may be difficult to standout in this career at the moment but as a profession he thinks it’s quite lucrative and the pay is very well. Rahul Talukder is currently working on pop and hipster culture of Bangladesh. But he doesn’t believe in planning for future and takes whatever he thinks best. To inspire new photographers, he said, ‘I don’t like following trends and I take what I like taking. Everyone should the same. And take lots and lots of photographs.’

Raiyan Momen is a student of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.

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