OKLAHOMA CITY — Photographer Prito Reza has a heart for lost causes. He also has a perspective on life and the people living it that transcends stereotypes and cultural barriers. His photo exhibit, Life Soldiers, showed recently at the Paseo Art Space in Oklahoma City. In this startling and emotion-provoking exhibit, Reza humanizes people on the margins of society and gives them a voice by telling their stories through his photos.
Life Soldiers focuses on two separate photo stories, the sorrow and loneliness of elderly people abandoned by their families and the hopefulness of an indigenous people living happily off the land with no electricity or modern conveniences.
Reza said he wanted to show the stories of the elderly abandoned by their families because he thought Americans could relate to the emotions captured in his photos. In Reza’s homeland, Bangladesh, extended families live together. Unlike the U.S. where generations are less likely to live together, homes for the aged are rare in Bangladesh. In the home he visited for his photo shoot, the elderly have truly been abandoned. Their families feel shame and do not visit.
In “Waiting” Reza pictures the feet of a woman who continually asked him if her son was coming. Another photo shows the flow of life and is shot through a wind whipped scarf with a woman in a wheelchair as the central focus.
Some of the shots are people’s shadows — like the shadow existence these helpless and forsaken persons live.
“I felt so sad when I was doing this story,” Reza said. “I want to show this story here, because here people don’t live with their parents.”
The photos of the abandoned and waiting elderly are printed in black and white, bringing home the stark reality of their hopeless situation. Reza hopes the exhibit encouraged viewers to reconnect with their families and mend severed ties.