Shahria Sharmin’s photographs from ‘Presence Of Absence’ use the metaphor of a train to reflect on the stories and lives of people who travel across the Indian sub continent and in her native Bangladesh.
Everyday, millions of people use the rail network and in these pictures Sharmin captures the remnants of their lives on the walls, through the windows and the indentations made on the empty seats. Each image a residual memory of what once was, a container of dreams, of emotions etched into the very fabric of the carriages, as if the train itself is the bearer of a collective unconscious, a visual memory of a performance that expresses the story of a whole people, a community and a culture.
It’s an intriguing series that peers out of the dark recesses, captures the shadows of lives lived, passing through, decaying, the fabric of life indelibly marking the physicality of the train. We see both the present and the past merging, becoming one, we create our own stories out of the fragments left behind and are left to wonder as we travel through cities and the countryside. Through the life of this ancient, vibrant culture.
It’s a story of humanity, of the daily grind, the ordinary lives that pass through on their way to somewhere else. Perhaps that why these pictures are so powerful. After all a train is merely a means to go from A to B, it’s a passage from one place to the next. It’s life is dependent on the people that travel upon it, their stories become its personality. And for a photographer it becomes representative of a greater whole, a storybook of the masses, a reflection of the past that hints to the future.