Bangladesh – Land of Rivers
Tucked away under its better-known neighbors in India and Nepal and forming an enormous delta at the confluence of Ganges, Meghna and Jamuna, the “Land of Rivers” teems with verdant riparian landscapes, pulsating cities, and bucolic backwater villages set on tree-shrouded creeks. With its abundance of hydrological resources, aquaculture is unsurprisingly a key industry and major source of rural incomes.
In 2014, Lucy joined a team of advisors to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to travel widely throughout the humid emerald plains of central Bangladesh photographing aquaculture ponds and other farming sites to illustrate a project helping rural agricultural communities improve productivity. At location after location, crowds of enthusiastic locals greeted the arrival of visitors forming impromptu parades that marched through the chequerboard of fishponds, some plunging into the water to catch carp which they jubilantly displayed for the benefit of her lens. At a pond near Bogra, a dozen farmers undertook a boisterous demonstration catch, beating the water’s surface as they waded through with their nets, masses of wriggling fish churning the water in front of them.
These photos of rural people engaged in fish farming, as well as growing poultry and rice, build on Lucy’s theme of populating the map with human stories by capturing the frenetic, spirited nature of rural Bangladeshi life. The recurring theme of teamwork serve as a counterpoint to typical images of a crowded and chaotic country. The characteristic and practical dhotis (sarongs) tied at the waist, and the ubiquitous utilitarian plastic flip-flops, democratize groups of laborers emphasizing the communal ethos that permeates the demanding manual work the farmers carry out.
The pride the famers express in unison when one of their number catches a fish to hold overhead for the benefit of visitors, or when a whole village gathers around a new tractor a resident family has acquired, convey the deep solidarity that binds people together in this country. Meanwhile, emersed in the green expanses, a dot on the map turns out to be a sprawling market, its seemingly endless chaos concealing a complex interconnected hub of distribution and trade tied together by a web of intimately familiar actors.