Bangladesh is known for its beautiful rivers, lush greenery and incredibly diverse culture. Scattered with an abundance of exotic flavors, enticing aromas, and stunning colors, there's a photo opportunity around every street corner. But beneath the dazzling exterior, a harrowing story is unfolding. We caught up with photographer Timothy Nesmith to talk about his experience in a country rocked by violent unrest, and the extraordinary resilience of the Rohingya refugees.
Hey, Tim! Welcome back to the Lomography Magazine. What have you been up to lately?
Thanks for having me back! Yes, life has been quite exciting recently with several cool projects. As always, I'm trying to stay on the road and see as much of the world as possible.
You recently went to Bangladesh. Can you tell us a bit more about your experience there? What were the people like given the current circumstances, and what was the main feeling you took from the country?
Going to Bangladesh was an exceptional experience. This country is unbelievably beautiful. I remember walking on city streets just buried in banana leaves, and taking paddle boats into ship graveyards in Dhaka… that’s something I’ve never experienced anywhere else.
The reason I was there, though, was to work with the IRC and their incredible efforts supporting the Rohingya refugees who have fled unimaginable violence in Myanmar. The crisis in the region is ongoing, and the Kutupalong refugee camp is now the world’s biggest with around a million refugees.
The camp is dramatically under-prepared to face impending storms during the monsoon season, and we were there to raise awareness. I didn’t use an instant camera for this portion of the trip, but if you’d like you can take a look at some of the (digital) photos. The main feeling I took away from the trip is a desire to go back and experience more of the country.
You’ve taken some incredible portraits with the Lomo’Instant Wide. Can you tell us a bit more about your creative intentions? How did people react when you printed their picture?
Thanks for saying that. When I take someone's portrait on the street it’s usually because I see something that reminds me of myself… some shared emotion or feeling. That’s why I take the picture in the first place, and that’s what I try to communicate. If it doesn’t communicate that, then the photo is a failure.
I’ve almost never had a negative experience taking someone’s photo. I’ve been surprised, but usually, people are extremely open to it. In Bangladesh, people loved seeing their photos printed. I would always take two and leave one with them.
In your opinion, what is it about the medium of instant photography that keeps people coming back?
When was the last time you bothered to print any photo you took on your phone? Or even on your digital camera? The tangibility of the instant format allows for an entirely different kind of interaction with the photos you're taking — and therefore with the memories, they’re associated with.
For me, the more photos the better. I know it’s counter to the current trends, but I just love the wider format. The Lomo’Instant Square Glass is great because it’s a classic and it’s a fun format to work in, but the larger prints from the Lomo’Instant Wide camera… I just love looking at those.
Finally, what’s coming up for you later this year? Any interesting projects you’re working on?
There should be lots of interesting things coming up. In a couple weeks, I’m heading back to Shanghai where I’ll be shooting a really cool project with Beats by Dre. After that, I'm hoping to focus a bit more on finishing some personal works that I’ve been building, assembling some of my travel photos from the past couple of years into a more cohesive project.