Through the lens, Asad saw an older man standing motionless in a submerged cropland of Shoronkhola, Khulna. He zoomed in the lens and saw that man was breaking down in tears holding a little kid in his chest. The kid was dead. This grandfather had found his grandchildren in the field after the catastrophic Sidr.
Documentary photographer and photojournalist Khandaker Muhammad Asad, known as K M Asad, was also there at that very moment to capture the destruction. When he saw this, he quickly adjusted the frame and pressed the shutter button.
"Holding the dead body, the man was crying, but still there was some serenity in his face. The peace to touch his grandchildren for the very last time was evident on his face. It was a moment that cannot be described with words and can never be recreated. I capture moments like these that say everything on its own," said Asad explaining why he loves photojournalism.
His dedication towards work is reflected in his achievements too. This year, he secured the third position in the World Press Photo Contest in the Environment section. Winning this World Press Photo Contest was like achieving a milestone for him, he shared.
Also, Asad has received numerous honours and awards, including UNICEF Picture of the Year, China International Press Photo Contest (CHIPP), Picture of the Year International (POYI), Days Japan International Photojournalism Award, New York Press Photographers' Association (NPPA), and The Lucie Award (IPA).
Asad said he prefers to work independently. Yet, he works in contract with Zuma Press, contributes to Getty Images, and he is also a fixed-term consultant for the World Bank in Bangladesh. In his career, he has worked for the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Agence-France Presse (AFP) Service, Plan Bangladesh, EDUCO, Forbes, and UNDP Bangladesh.
His career started in 2004, long before graduating from Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in 2008. "I am the eldest child of my family. So even before starting my graduate programme, I was worried about my future. I did not map out anything from the beginning, but I did not want to graduate only and start seeking jobs like others. I wanted to learn some skills that would help me make some extra money in my student life, which is how I thought about giving photography a shot," stated Asad.
Later, he found his passion for this profession, and is continuing this for the last seventeen years. He has covered notable incidents like Rana Plaza collapse and the Rohingya influx in this timeline and gathered some bitter-sweet experiences.
"People think we are trained to do our job, but that is not always true. We are also human beings, and we have emotions too. In miserable situations, we also find ourselves vulnerable, yet we work because that is our job and that is how people get to know the reality," he said.
In the Rana Plaza tragedy, he met a victim stuck in the collapsed building. Asad talked to him, touched him, gave food but could not rescue him. Capturing photos of those moments took a heavy toll on him which made him quite disturbed.
But later, when he got to know that international organisations have helped such victims and their families, marking from his and other photographers' photos, this news made him feel way better.
"The thought that my work brings a little comfort in peoples' lives helps me keep going. That is why I want to do this for the rest of my life – helping people through my work," said Asad while sharing his coping mechanism.
Many of Asad's photos got international appreciation and recognition. For example, a photograph of Asad on the Rohingya refugee crisis was featured as cover photo in August 2019 issue of National Geographic Magazine.
He has been working on this project since 2017. He is planning to create an album on this which will portray the journey of the Rohingya. He has captured their life – from birth, marriage, migration to death.
"Actually, I like to capture natural photos that tell stories, where nothing is arranged. A homeless person's pain, worry, agony and helplessness shows up in his body language. It cannot be framed making plans. I believe beauty lies in simplicity so capturing the moment is important. And also, if you ask me what my favourite lens is, my answer will be my eyes. Because what you see through your eyes, that is the best frame to capture a natural photo," said the award-winning photographer.
For the past few years, our curriculum has been focusing more on artistic photography than natural one, Asad said. "These courses are not convincing at all. Do we have an organised life like western people? We are still living in chaos and struggling with problems. So, we must focus on things that are relevant here. However, if someone plans to settle down abroad, then it is different because this artistic genre is more appreciated there for its popularity," opined Asad.
For those who want to start their career in this profession, this professional suggested practicing thinking out of the box and to gather real-life experience. "Real-life knowledge changes the whole game for a photographer, and this can never be learned from any university or online video content. Go, ask for fellowship, gather experience and then start photography," the photographer advised.