Tea is not something I have delved too deeply into – I’m more of a coffee drinker myself. But after an afternoon with Faiham, I must admit I was chiding myself over how little I knew. Faiham Ebna Sharif is a photographer and researcher based in Bangladesh who has been photographing tea workers in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh for the past three and a half years as part of his Cha Chakra: tea tales of Bangladesh project.
Faiham’s relationship with tea has been a long one. As a child, the staff at his school came from the tea workers’ community and the school was surrounded on one side by tea fields. As an adult, his interest in the lives of tea workers grew. “Once I went to the tea garden as a journalist”, Faiham tells me. “And I found the hardship and at the same time an interesting link between the tea drinking culture and the life of the workers, which is mostly unknown to people. Then I thought I would love to tell the story.” Faiham is providing the outside world with an honest glimpse into the lives of these tea workers. He approaches his work in an ethnographic way – living, eating and sleeping with a family from the community. In this way he is able to connect with the community on a deeper and more organic level, and connect the workers’ lives to consumers in Bangladesh and the rest of the world.