Fatema Tabasum

Fellow, Dismislab
120-year-old photograph of Dhaka’s Chawkbazar goes viral as Gulshan’s

120-year-old photograph of Dhaka's Chawkbazar goes viral as Gulshan’s

Fatema Tabasum

Fellow, Dismislab

A viral black-and-white photograph of Old Dhaka’s Chawkbazar has been shared on social media as a picture of Gulshan for some time. A German photographer named Frederick Fritz Kapp took the picture in 1904. The social media posts have also been made with incorrect information about the photo, the location and even the year it was taken.

The ancient picture is the most VIP area of present day Bangladesh, Gulshan is the number two area” – using such caption the image has been shared on Facebook for quite a few days. The image was edited with a fake year on it, saying this was “… a photo of 1872.”

At the time of writing this report, this image with the wrong information was being shared on a Facebook page more than 2500 times. The same post has over 34,000 Facebook users’ reactions, with nearly 900 comments. Many have expressed outrage in the comments section of the post on this page, calling on the person behind the post to correct it. The photo was posted on April 16th at 3:54 pm and said: “The ancient picture is the most VIP area of present-day Bangladesh, Gulshan is the number two area”. Till today, the post has not seen any corrections.

Several Facebook users (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) are seen sharing the same image using the same misinformative caption. Some users have been seen showing the transformation over the years, comparing the fake old image alongside a contemporary photo of the current Gulshan.

The same image with the false caption was posted on various Facebook pages (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) and in different Facebook groups (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) can be seen as well. Several pages have tens of thousands of followers. On the other hand, some of the groups have more than 100,000 members.

Dismislab found that the picture is not of Dhaka’s Gulshan-2, in fact, it is an old image of Old Dhaka’s Chawkbazar. The photo was taken by German photographer Fritz Kapp in 1904. Following many European photographers, he came to India in the 1880s. It was a part of the “Curzon Collection,” an album of 30 prints of Fritz Kapp’s captured photographs. The original photo has been found in that album somewhere in the British Library. All the websites with the internet version of the original photograph have sourced the British Library underneath. The founder and CEO of Bangladesh Forum for Heritage Studies, Waqar A Khan, found the Curzon collection during his visit to the British Library. He mentioned in his article titled “A photographer named Fritz Kapp”: the ‘Curzon Collection’ contains 30 gelatin-silver prints commemorating the visit of Viceroy Curzon to Dhaka in 1904.

In various online repositories, including PICRYL and Old Indian Photos, the image is archived as a photograph of ‘The Chowk Bazaar’ from ‘Dacca’ or Dhaka; taken by Fritz Kapp in 1904. A common summary is found everywhere about the photograph: “Photograph taken by Fritz Kapp in 1904 in Dacca (now Dhaka), part of an album of 30 prints from the Curzon Collection. This is a view of the Chowk or the market place in Dhaka, looking across the shop roofs. The Chowk Bazaar is at the seething heart of the old city of Dhaka, Its narrow, twisted roads are lined with old buildings, the ground floors of which house shops selling a multitude of things. All manner of vehicles, predominantly rickshaws, crowd the streets”.

The photo has also been published in the media many times as a photo taken in the year 1904 by the photographer Fritz Kapp. A recent feature in The Business Standard titled “How Chawkbazar continues to make a name for itself even after four hundred years” can be found with its original details.

In a word, the photo is not 152-year-old Gulshan-2’s photo, but it is a 120-year-old photograph of Dhaka’s old Chawkbazar. 

Earlier, misinformation was seen spreading using old photographs on social media. For example, the picture of the funeral of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy is being circulated as the picture of Ziaur Rahman’s funeral.