Street Scene | Old Dhaka, Bangladesh | Photo Essay

A Bangladeshi man hauls a large tube that extends well beyond the length of his body - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

I have to be brutally honest when I admit that I had very little preconceived expectations when I arrived in Bangladesh.  Outlining my plan to travel from Rajasthan to Kolkata it made logistical sense to finish my journey across the subcontinent in nearby neighboring Bangladesh: another stamp in my passport, another feather in my cap.  When I discovered that I could find a cheap flight with Air Asia from Dhaka to Kuala Lumpur I quickly pounced on an advance seat sale.  What I never would have expected was that my only regret about coming to Bangladesh was that I didn’t schedule a longer visit.

It’s impossible not to compare India with Bangladesh.  Although India is exceptionally diverse from region to region it does share certain similarities across the board.  When I arrived in Bangladesh it was a whole different story.

As a potential tourist destination it is well off the radar and one rarely encounters other backpackers or travellers.

I found this presented numerous opportunities to interact with locals in more genuine and sincere manner.  People were literally in ‘awe’ of my presence as I roamed the hectic quarters of Old Dhaka.

I was greeted by locals of all ages and at certain given points in time I had a large following trailing behind me.  I’ll never forget that experience as long as I live.

One quickly notices that Old Dhaka is a bustling hive of activity dominated by male driven labor.  I didn’t make a typo here.  In stark contrast from India, where bright saris were seen around every corner, the streets of Bangladesh were littered with men performing blue collar tasks.  Even the main Buriganga river nearby the Sadarghat was equally as hectic.

The following photo essay captures some of the most candid moments I encountered on the street.

A Bangladeshi man carries a large basket on his head supported by only one arm - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A Bangladeshi man carries a large basket on his head supported by only one arm – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A Bangladeshi man gracefully carries an empty basket in one hand that is larger than his entire upper body - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A Bangladeshi man gracefully carries an empty basket in one hand that is larger than his entire upper body – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A Bangladeshi man firmly grasps a bulk collection of brightly coloured fabrics tied together in a bundle - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A Bangladeshi man firmly grasps a bulk collection of brightly coloured fabrics tied together in a bundle – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A group of Bangladeshi men haul a heavy load on a cart - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A group of Bangladeshi men haul a heavy load on a cart – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A group of Bangladeshi men wander down the side walk carrying big empty baskets - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A group of Bangladeshi men wander down the side walk carrying big empty baskets – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A man crouches down beside a collection of cables spread out across the ground - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A man crouches down beside a collection of cables spread out across the ground – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A man pounds together and moulds ingredients with his hands - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A man pounds together and moulds ingredients with his hands – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A close up perspective of a cart (from behind) with a man pulling on it - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A close up perspective of a cart (from behind) with a man pulling on it – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A massive crowd of local Bangladeshi men gather amidst the announcement of a street side sale - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A massive crowd of local Bangladeshi men gather amidst the announcement of a street side sale – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Two men push and pull a cart filled to the brim while another man sits comfortably on top of the load - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Two men push and pull a cart filled to the brim while another man sits comfortably on top of the load – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A close-up shot of a man hauling several live birds in both of his hands - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A close-up shot of a man hauling several live birds in both of his hands – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A makeshift bicycle turned into a rickshaw bares the weight of a heavy load that appears to be way beyond capacity - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A makeshift bicycle turned into a rickshaw bares the weight of a heavy load that appears to be way beyond capacity – Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A man sits high atop of a large load on a rickshaw as a man in front of him is burdened with the task of moving everything forward.

A man sits high atop of a large load on a rickshaw as a man in front of him is burdened with the task of moving everything forward.


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  8. says: Donald R.

    I enjoyed your pics of street scenes.. Jus’ arr here more south in Chittagong / the street scenes are soooooo “out of the norm” even for a 40 yr traveler & Globe Trotter.. Actually the first day I visually gawked rather than shoot the chaotic street & open market scenes sooo abundant & explosive w/ the most intricate cloth weaves / heavenly colors worn by all ages of man-woman-child…homemade bicycles burdened w/ mountains of loads of mixed cargos, free roaming cows, ricks shaws, rickyty-shack store fronts, lumbering public buses….capt/drm

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  15. says: Cassie

    Great shots, you are really good at finding interesting angles and vantage points. I especially like the ones of the man crouching behind the rusty cables, and the rear view of the man pulling a cart. I love photos like this of busy street life, but I’m shy about taking close-ups of people and also a little fearful of using my DSLR (I tend to use my point and shoot in busy places). But these are an inspiration!

  16. says: AlexBerger

    It always amazes me just how stark the contrast is between countries with cheap labor/manpower and those that do not/have advanced technological infrastructure to automate.

  17. says: Heidi @ Great Family Escape

    Never had Bangladesh on my list of places to see, but now I do! Your photos sell the place (that and the appeal of going somewhere not many tourists do…).

  18. says: Andrew

    As always some really great pictures of people doing their thing. Love the shots that play with focus. Although I have really no interest in traveling to that part of the world, some lovely shots of it.

  19. says: Bama

    It sounds like Bangladesh, apart from the hustle and bustle of Dhaka, is a nice place to visit. Given its status as an ‘out-of-the-tourists’-radar’ country, I guess there won’t be any tout or scam.

  20. Fascinating experience for you. So interesting about the people being in awe of you since there are so few travelers who go there. I wouldn’t have had any idea what to expect as a visitor to Bangladesh. Love your photos.

  21. says: Bodlagz

    Been to Bangladesh twice, never had a camera with me, something I really regret. Visited Dhaka and Chittagong, from both places I have images planted in my mind that will stay forever, they are just the sort of images here, great photos Sam.

  22. says: Maria

    So many make so much from very little – one of my favorite things about places like this and you’ve captured it well in these photos.

  23. says: Laurence

    Great photos as always Samuel 🙂 Love the first one of the pipes – they look like he shouldn’t be able to lift them! Also the guy sitting on the cart. How did he swing that job 😉

  24. says: my.

    Hi Samuel! Great to connect with a fellow photographer. Glad to have found you from the Facebook group.

    Beautiful photo essay on Bangladesh. There’s something very telling about images of locals on the street doing what they do. It’s like we get a glimpse of their life. You’re right, I haven’t seen many stories about Bangladesh. I may be heading there the end of the year, so I may have to hit you up for some pointers.

    Michelle