Queens photographer Shams M. Tarek has opened his exhibition “Bengali” at Espresso 77, using it as a way to raise awareness and funds for some charities that are assisting the South Asian community.
Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tarek moved to Queens with his family when he was a child. He said that he loves art and beautiful things and loves creating beautiful things, which is what led him to photography.
While working as a journalist at a community newspaper and doing photojournalism, Tarek was able to do many types of portraiture and took photographs of people in their environments.
“I’m interested in capturing people,” said Tarek, who now works as the Director of Communications for City Councilmember James Gennaro.
“Bengali” marks the first show for Tarek. Although it was something that he always wanted to do, he became more motivated to make it happen while working for Senator John Sabini when Cyclone Sidr hit. As they did work to mobilize the community to assist its victims, Tarek began to wonder what he could do to help further.
Tarek finally decided that he could sell prints of his photography to benefit several organizations. A portion of the proceeds will go to SAYA! South Asian Youth Action, Chhaya Community Development Corporation, Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers, Sakhi for South Asian Women and the Bangladesh Chief Advisor’s Welfare and Relief Fund, which specifically helps victims of Cyclone Sidr. When selecting the charities, Tarek said that it was important to him to support some that are helping local American-Bengalis with a focus on women and children.
The newly-opened exhibition features 12 photographs that were taken during Tarek’s trips to Bangladesh in 2000 and 2006.
“I’ve taken several thousand pictures during these two trips,” he said.
Tarek said that things for the exhibition really came together when Espresso 77 opened in Jackson Heights last December. Describing it as “a little piece of Manhattan in Jackson Heights,” Tarek said that it was already designed to also show art. He approached the owners about doing the show and after they saw his work they agreed to it.
“It was like a perfect storm,” Tarek said of how everything came together.
“Bengali” opened on Tuesday, May 6 and will be on display at Espresso 77 through June 2.
“This [photography] was always just a hobby. I hope this is the beginning of many great things to come,” Tarek said. He continued, “There’s so much to photograph and show.”
Tarek said that, as excited as he his to have his first exhibition, he is really looking forward to raising money for the selected organizations while also bringing more awareness about them.
Espresso 77 is located at 35-57 77th Street in Jackson Heights.
For more information on Tarek and his work, visit www.shamstarek.com.