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Photos & Projects

Girls’ Hostel – My Teenage and University Years (2005-2016) – By Sumaiya Tazin

November 11, 2020

I spent my teenage and university years in two different girls’/women’s dormitories. I have experienced myself and seen the girls around me experience friendship, betrayal, death, pain, heartbreak, shock, loss, failure and much more during these years. Some endured the process and matured through these experiences, while some others gave up.

My school had strict military rules giving us restricted access to TV or the internet. So, the series starts with teenagers enjoying some innocent pleasures of life, quite unlike today’s outside world. But the scenario changes as I grew up and stepped into adulthood. Here we see girls accepting many aspects of life which they considered sin in their teenage years. Hence, this series is also about looking at that the parts of life that we tend to avoid and think about the very long journey, pleasant and unpleasant, that eventually brought us to where we are today.

Despite the common belief in my society that women can’t be friends with each other, most of my close friends are women. And in my experience, the argument that women are not taught to be great friends makes more sense than the one stating they can’t be great friends. Hence, this story is also about how we managed to learn about friendship by ourselves.

I have lost many photos over the years. I wanted to add some photos from the earlier days at my residential school but all of those were taken on film cameras, and I can’t find them anymore. The devices used to take these photos vary from ill-functioning digital camera, old smartphones, borrowed dslrs from the photography club and my chunky camera. Basically, I used anything I had at hand when I needed to take a picture, hence the difference in framing and texture.

I hope you all like the images and stories.

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Someone bet E to crack a boiled egg by hitting it on J’s head. As E took the bet, J got furious. E decided to apologize to J with five eggs saying S O R R Y. J is seen here accepting the apology. 2009, 16 year old.

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L is taking her clothes to the laundry room on a weekend afternoon. She looks very happy. 2010 .17 years old.

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L is dancing as a storm made the trees dance outside. 2011. 18 year old.

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L is heartbroken. That day she collected these flowers from her school’s garden and took a lot of pictures of these flowers with her red camera. ‘Aparajita’- the name of the flower means undefeated. Her school final (hsc) exam is close and she has to mend her broken heart as soon as possible. 2011. 18 year old.

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Girls leave the dining hall mid-meal to dance in the rain. In a strict military school this simple pleasure is almost impossible to enjoy. But, they are in senior most class and care very less about the rules anymore as they’ll graduate soon. 2011. 18 year old.

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L cries during their last day at their residential school as her best friend is leaving on the bus to Dhaka. They will live in separate districts from now. They have seen each other almost everyday except the vacations for the past six years (2005-2011) and this separation breaks both of their hearts. 2011. 18 year old.

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First year undergraduate students trying their first cigarettes. They couldn’t inhale at all and had to throw the whole packet away. In a conservative society like theirs, smoking is something reserved only for guys. 2012. 19 year old.

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Second year undergraduate students. They are four girls struggling to live in a cramped room. They eagerly wait for their third year when each of them will be given a single room. 2013. 20 year old.

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As above. 2013. 20 year old.

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Everyone in this small room feels very stuck like a butterfly stuck in a windowpane. 2013. 20 year old.

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Excess rainfall caused the ground floor of the hostel to flood. Two girls are seen returning back after an evening walk. They were waterlogged for the past two days. 2013. 20/21 year old.

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“This room is my life’s wonderland” a girl wrote on the wall of her single room. In this university students can get a room of their own in the third year and many eagerly wait for the privacy brought by the privilege. 2014. 21 year old.

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Girls enjoy Diwali (a big festival) at their campus. Most of the students went back home for the celebrations. Only students from abroad or distant states stayed back. 2015. 21/22 year old.

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As above. 2015. 21/22 year old.

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S is very sad after a breakup. Now a days she smokes a few cigarettes everyday. 2015. 21/22 year old.

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T had to retake a few subjects in the past and in her third year has decided to study seriously. She is very anxious about her future but this single room gives her the space she always needed and she is happy with her progress. 2015. 22 year old.

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A’s room. She is studying engineering and is very good at her studies but deep down she is an artist. 2015. 21/22 year old.

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This girls’ hostel has some exercise equipment which nobody uses. Girls use the bars to hang their clothes. 2015.

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P’s room. She is not very religious but decided to leave the calligraphy left by the previous occupant on the door. She has very light sleep and can’t go back to sleep once someone wakes her up. Hence the note on the door. 2015. 22 year old.

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M is sweeping her floor and S is lying on her(M’s) bed. M likes to keep her room tidy. 2015. 21/22 year old.

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A notice. 2015. 21/22 year old.

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“I wish nobody goes through the amount of pain I’m going through”-X said after she found out about her pregnancy. 2015. 22 year old.

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“I wish nobody goes through the amount of pain I’m going through”-X said after she found out about her pregnancy. She had ectopic pregnancy and had to get an abortion arranged with the help of her boyfriend. They broke up soon after. She dealt with the trauma by smoking weed and cigarettes. 2015. 22 year old.

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“I wish nobody never goes through the amount of pain I’m going through”-X. X was thinking about killing herself when her friends stopped her. She finally killed herself in 2019. 2015. 22 year old.

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Somebody threw emergency contraception pills in the common bin. 2016. 22/23 year old.

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A girl in my sister’s hostel is seen here speaking with her boyfriend. 2016. 19-23 year old.

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“Why is there so much cloud in my mind’s sky?” 2016. 19-23 year old.

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My sister in her hostel. 2016. 19-23 year old.

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T prepares her saree for her last Saraswati puja in the campus. She is not a follower of Hinduism but Saraswati puja is celebrated with much seriousness at her campus and she enjoys it. 2016.  22/23 year old.

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Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge. A celebration for her is a major event in any educational institute in India. 2016. 19-23 year old.

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Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge. A celebration for her is a major event in any educational institute in India. Here the statue of the goddess is being taken away to be sacrificed in a nearby river. 2016. 19-22 year old.

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Girls in an university love to dress up but in this girls’ hostel there was no full body mirror. After requesting the hostel super several times, she installed one mirror in each floor. 2016.

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Girls enjoy their mirror. 2016.  22/23 year old.

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Girls try some weed. Even though it’s very common among boys; girls are still expected to stay clear of such things in a Bengali society. 2016. 22/23 year old.

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As above. 2016. 22/23 year old.

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Girls play with color during Holi festival. 2016.  22/23 year old.

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P tries on a saree that she ordered online on top of her cartoon T shirt. P got married in her second year (20YO). None of her seniors or friends got married while they were studying at the university so she also feels a bit awkward with her new identity which is very prominently visible in her changed appearance. She acts like a kid in many ways yet manages to wear vermilion in her hair and the white bangles on her wrists everyday without miss. 2016. 22/23 year old.

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T’s room. She brought the curtains from her home country and is very choosy about some things. All her bed-sheets are matched with her curtains.
It took her awhile to find the position she likes to keep her bed in. She is normally tidy but when this photo was taken she was studying for a hectic semester final and couldn’t tidy up. People in this hostel normally keep their windows closed while they are outside. Once a squirrel came inside T’s room and ate her noodles from the packet. 2016. 22/ 23 year old.

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T is trying to figure out how to work with cables and circuits for her final year project. She studied civil engineering and has absolutely no idea on these. 2016. 22/23 year old.

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Cooks came from outside to prepare special meals for the farewell dinner. 2016.

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A second year student performs during the farewell while the hostel super sits nonchalantly. 2016.

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Graduating girls decide to put some life into their lifeless party by enjoying some loud music and dancing along. They must stop playing the music by 11.30pm. 2016. 22/23 year old.

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K’s room. 2016. 22/23 year old.

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K prepares to leave the room she stayed in for a long time. 2016. 22/23 year old.

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K looks at something she found while cleaning the room. As a fresh graduate she will join the huge working force of India and right before starting her new life she feels a bit nostalgic. 2016.

– Sumaiya Tazin
Find me on instagram  or facebook or wordpress

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40 Comments

  • Reply
    Mats
    November 11, 2020 at 4:16 pm

    Beatiful work! Just stunning..Looks so fluid and organic

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:13 am

      Thanks, Mats!

  • Reply
    Jeff
    November 11, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Beautiful.

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:52 am

      Thank you Jeff!

  • Reply
    Clive Williams
    November 11, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    What an extraordinary document! Thank you so much for creating and sharing it.

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:52 am

      And thank you for loving it 😀

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    November 11, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    This is a powerful collection of photographs. You lifted a curtain and allowed us to see a world unknown to many.
    So sad to read of the suicide of the young woman who had the abortion. The story is more poignant when placed along side the photos of the girls just having fun.
    Thank you.

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:56 am

      Thanks Daniel. She was a very close friend of mine and is featured in more than one photo in the series. I am still struggling to recover from the pain. I am just glad that she saw the series before she left us. It was a small tribute to the bonding we once formed.

  • Reply
    Sergio Palazzi
    November 11, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    What a delicate story! showing to some of my high school students.

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:53 am

      Wow this is very humbling! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Laurence Kesterson
    November 11, 2020 at 5:42 pm

    What a wonderful work of documentary photography. Well done!

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:57 am

      Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Ne
    November 11, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    Beautiful photos and glimpse into a hidden world

  • Reply
    Peter
    November 11, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you for sharing these photos and your story. It has made this post most fascinating! You have illuminated my curiosity regarding your country.

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 4:02 am

      Thanks Peter! The pictures were taken across India and Bangladesh.

  • Reply
    Ben Garcia
    November 11, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Sumaiya, this was so touching! Thank you for presenting this. This world you show is so foreign to my experiences, yet also point out some Universal Truths. Keep snapping photos, please!

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 4:01 am

      Thank you Ben! I feel humbled.

  • Reply
    Alexander Seidler
    November 11, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Beautiful !

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:58 am

      Thank you so much! It’s lovely to know that you liked it.

  • Reply
    Joris
    November 11, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    These are wonderful, thank you for sharing then together with the stories

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:58 am

      Thank you so much! It’s lovely to know that you liked it.

  • Reply
    Peter Grey
    November 11, 2020 at 9:50 pm

    Very interesting. Great pictures!

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:58 am

      Thank you so much! It’s lovely to know that you liked it.

  • Reply
    Yair Sachs
    November 11, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    Lovely, genuine, frank and heart warming portrait of school life.
    What the story may lack in technical quality it more than makes up for as a human document.
    Isn’t this what, at the final analysis, photography is all about?
    Keep it up, Sumaiya. Don’t stop photographing, using whatever device you can lay your hands on – you’re doing fine!

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 4:01 am

      Thank you so much Yair. Comments like yours inspire me to keep taking pictures :)))

  • Reply
    Scott Gitlin
    November 11, 2020 at 10:08 pm

    A very interesting documentary series of captures. Your words were thoughtful and helped create an atmosphere. Sad and joyous – a fine presentation.

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:52 am

      Thank you so much Scott! That’s lovely to know that you liked it.

  • Reply
    CLARE HENNESSEY
    November 11, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    Just magnificent The best article I have read on this site, do you have more?
    Best regards and wishes, Clare.

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:51 am

      That’s so nice to hear! I am very new here and this was my first post here. You can check my instagram though :))) Take love.

  • Reply
    Matthias Rabiller
    November 11, 2020 at 10:23 pm

    Lots of really good stuff here. You really captured moments in lives. Well done 🙂

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:50 am

      Thank you :)))) That’s what I wanted to do!

  • Reply
    Rock
    November 12, 2020 at 12:47 am

    Amazing photos and words. Really enjoyed this post.

    • Reply
      S Tazin
      November 12, 2020 at 3:50 am

      Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Kevin Ortner
    November 12, 2020 at 5:58 am

    Your intriguing images with some added context paint a beautiful story. Given the large number of positive responses I don’t feel I am far off when saying this is one of the nicest photo documentaries on this site. 7 years of documenting some of your most formative years is simply incredible. Also, good choice with keeping it all black and white given the variety of cameras used.

  • Reply
    Michael J
    November 12, 2020 at 7:02 am

    These are so intricate and intense and beautiful! I’m very moved.

    Thanks so much for sharing- despite your protestation that the cameras used are such a mixed bunch, the quality of your eye comes through overall and the mixture doesn’t matter. Please do see if you can find prints or negatives of the film-era pictures, and do a “Part 2” (or technically Part 0.5) if you do…

  • Reply
    Blue marks
    November 12, 2020 at 9:12 am

    A fantastic record, and view into these girls lives. A really good social documentary.

  • Reply
    Matt Sandiford
    November 12, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Wonderful and evocative photos, one of the most interesting collections I’ve seen for a long time.

  • Reply
    Huss
    November 12, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    The photo of the girl silhouetted in the window with the tube of Dove is fantastic.
    What a great, sad, poignant and joyful series.

  • Reply
    Ben
    November 12, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    This was wonderful work, thank you for letting us into your world. Keep on taking pictures as you have a great eye.

  • Reply
    Marco C
    November 12, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Sumaiya, your pictures and your memories are so delicate and touching. Thank you for sharing them with us.

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