The series, Metal Graves (2014), is Dhaka-based artist Shumon Ahmed’s ode to a graveyard for ships located in Chittagong, Bangladesh. A natural harbour and once an important stop on ancient maritime networks, the seaport of Chittagong is now home to the second largest ship-breaking yard in the world: A post-apocalyptic landscape to which many of the world’s largest ships, having outlived their use, make a final unceremonious journey to be recycled.

Ahmed’s portraits of these vessels show them sitting on mud banks like beached whales, stilled and ready to be dismantled. All around stretches a desolate landscape marked only by barbed wire fences and the bare figures of labourers whose hazardous job it is to rip apart and salvage what they can from the discarded ships. Metal Graves is thus a portrait of the flipside of exuberant narratives of growth and mobility in a globalised world. Viewed through the artist’s bleached frames, everything in the landscape stands still, moments frozen in some distant past. To Ahmed, these vessels are relics of the globalised world they helped create; their empty hulls lined up against the Bay of Bengal like grave stones that mark events in history that go beyond the stories of individual ships.

Ahmed photographed the ship-breaking yard using small film-based cameras in 2009, having gained access with difficulty into an area where cameras are regarded with grave suspicion. In the resultant series of prints, he has carefully preserved the processes involved in their production, juxtaposing in rows successive photographs in the same order as they were captured on the roll and leaving intact on individual frames the scratches and other damage sustained by the film.


  • Title: Metal Graves
  • Creator: Shumon Ahmed
  • Physical Dimensions: Dimensions variable
  • Medium: Photographic print on Epson premium lustre semigloss photo paper
  • Gallery: Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi
  • First Creator: 1977
  • Date of artwork's creation: 2014
  • Creator's practice: Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Creator's date of birth: Dhaka, Bangladesh

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