"Creating is a very primal and intimate act"

Nov 29, 2019 · 5 min read

Visual artist and photographer Sarker Protick talks about creating dialogues, reaching larger audiences and dealing with socio-political issues.

Drawing from the Prince Claus Fund’s network, #YCreate explores the human palette of dreams, fears, and motivations with one key question: ‘Why do you create?’ Dive into their work by visiting @ycreate_pcf on Instagram and read their stories on Medium. Today: Sarker Protick.

Why create? What drives you to create the things you do?

For me, ‘creating’ (regardless of its form or medium), is a very primal and intimate act. It is a form of existing.

As a species, we have always tried to understand ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ we are. There’s so much that we don’t know. That’s why we explore, study and invent. We look for facts through science, we search for spiritual meanings through different approaches or rituals. ‘Creating’ is also a similar act. What we create is often a reflection of us, to understand ourselves and what we do.

In Sarker Protick’s photo series ‘Of river and Lost lands’ the river Padma in Bangladesh is the central character of the story. Many of the places in these photographs do not exist any more. As a result, these photographs survive as visual documents of these vanished lands.

Do you think creators have a role in socio-political activism?

I think artists who are dealing with socio-political issues through their work are already performing a form of activism. But those of us who work more closely to those subject matters can also think about reaching larger audiences and creating dialogues that are not only limited within the small bubble of the arts, cultural or progressive community.

“I think artists who are dealing with socio-political issues through their work are already performing a form of activism.”

I know artists who are deeply engaged with the subject matters, issues and the crisis that their works represent. A big part of their life is invested in to that. But there are also artists that work on extremely sensitive issues such as communal or indigenous violence or the refugee crisis. These important works often end up being consumed in elite art communities far away from reality and whose interests are quite questionable. I think as an artist we can rethink our role regarding these issues.

How did you get into photography?

I studied business studies for my bachelors. It was more a family or shall I say social obligation. But it never gave me any purpose or drive. Since I was in high school I have been interested in music. I enjoyed playing musical instruments, writing and composing music. That was my early experience of the process of creating something.

Later, I discovered photography when I got a small phone with a camera in it. It was completely a new world to me, which was based on my sight and not hearing. It provided me an opportunity to be the author of the stories that I could share with others.

Especially when I got enrolled at Pathshala, I got to know more and not just about photography but gained so much perspectives about my surroundings and choices. Which I should have learned at the existing traditional educational institutions, but sadly none of the schools, college or universities taught me those values.

What’s it like to be an artist in Bangladesh?

Being an artist in Bangladesh has many challenges and limitations. It can often be politically adverse, economically not feasible or an overall geographical/global ignorance. I will mention the most wonderful thing we have here is the sense of community that exists. That I haven’t seen in many countries or culture.

“Being an artist in Bangladesh has many challenges and limitations. It can often be politically adverse, economically not feasible or you have to deal with an overall geographical/global ignorance.”

What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?

To prepare for losses. To process grief in the right ways and not avoid it.

What and/or who inspires you in your work?

There are so many artists who constantly inspire me. Edward Hopper, William Eggleston, James Turrell, Rene Magritte, Andrei Tarkovsky, Thom Yorke, David Lynch, Nils Frahm, Jim Jarmusch to name a few.

I am inspired by their complete commitment to their work and not compromising. Their ability to create these alternative worlds in our mind, each unique in themselves, that are born out of our existing world but transcend to a different plane of reality and which triggers our most basic instincts and contradictions.

See https://sarkerprotick.com for more.
Portrait of Sarker Protick by
Aishwarya Arumbakkam


Art is at the heart of what makes us human. That’s why, in an era of building walls and blaming ‘the other’, it’s essential that cultural expression is free and valued. Every story counts, but not every story gets the attention it deserves. The Prince Claus Fund aims for change by launching #YCreate — a platform to connect the next generation with the extraordinary stories and diverse perspectives of creative people from all over the world.

YCreate by Prince Claus Fund

Why do you create? Follow the extraordinary stories of artists all around the world.

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