Ismail Ferdous was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1989. While studying marketing at the East West University in Dhaka, he developed a passion for photography. Before he decided to take up photography professionally, he studied with widely known photographers such as Ami Vitale and Jonas Bendiksen, who became a great source of inspiration for him. He also attended the Foundry Photojournalism workshop, the Momenta Workshop, and was selected for the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2013.
Ismail is a documentary photographer, mostly covering social humanitarian issues. He is currently working freelance, based in Bangladesh, and documents long-term stories like climate change, health and the garment industry.
In 2012, he was awarded the Alexia Foundation Awarded of Excellence. He has won numerous awards, including the World Bank Young Artist award, WHO award, Commonwealth Gold Award, Save Water, Young Portfolio (Kmopa), InterAction and many more. His photographs has been shown at 25CPW Gallery, World Bank Head office, Powerhouse Museum, Rio de Janerio-UNICEF, Kelowna Art Gallery, Montreal Convention Centre, International de Photography Sant Just Desvern, University of Geneva; Castle in Trippstadt, Indian Habitat Centre, Kiyosato Museum and more other galleries.
Ismail's work has appeared in New Yorker Magazine, National Geographic- Germany, Washington Post, Time Magazine Lightbox, New York Times Lens blog, USA Today, Emaho Magazine, and Seattle Times.
Photo by Davivd Burnett
Photograph by Ismail Ferdous from Climate Fury Shatkhira: Bangladesh.
Death hides in plain sight. The soil has died away with the people’s spirit. Shamnagar, Shatkhira, Khulna, Bangladesh.
The Shatkhira district lies in the Sundarban delta region of Bangladesh, where the mouth of the Ganges River separates the country from neighboring India and the largest mangrove forest in the world finds its home. That’s where Bangladeshi photographer Ismail Ferdous started working on the project “Climate Fury Shatkhira: Rising Sea Levels in Bangladesh” in March 2011, two years after the devastating cyclone Aila hit the region and displaced more than two million people.
“I wanted to tell this story because it had been erased from the viewers minds, now that it wasn’t a newspaper headline anymore. It became an off-tracked, forgotten story,” Ferdous said.
The photographer, who later received a grant by the Alexia Foundation to continue working on his project, recalled that the devastation caused by the cyclone was no longer as physically visible during his time in Shatkhira, but it was still present in people’s eyes and hearts — and in the scattered and endangered existences into which the aftermath of Aila forced them.
“I have seen children deprived of their parents and wives deprived of their families; drought, water salinity and poisoning of drinking water; flooding due to the higher walls of the shrimp pens not letting out the rainwater; unfertilized land to grow crops. In the forest, the compromised eco-system created food scarcity for tigers and made them man-eaters,” Ferdous explained.
Tigers started attacking humans increasingly often. Shubash, one of the victims portrayed in Ferdous’s project, went to Sundarban to fish one day and lost part of his face to a tiger. His young son saved him from the animal.
“I met him at the time he was recovering from the trauma. As of today, I can’t forget his soaked eyes when he was telling his story with a shuddering voice,” Ferdous recalled. “I felt he was eager to express his fear, agony, ache, and trauma to someone who could never imagine the situation not having been there to witness it.”
Bangladesh is often considered the global frontline victim of climate change, with approximately one quarter of the country affected nearly every year. This makes Bangladeshis “the society who’s most aware of climate change in the whole world,” according to the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund.
“After almost four years, thousands of people are still homeless and live on river embankments,” continued Ferdous. “A large part of the population became unemployed since agriculture was completely destroyed by the cyclones and the flooding, so now they must depend on fishing and collecting honey in the forest. In the future, even a smaller catastrophe could make the last signs of their presence vanish from this land.”