Pathshala and the Sam Banks Memorial Fund

The Sam Banks Memorial Fund is providing bursaries for low income Bangladeshis to study photography at Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka.

Why Pathshala?

Just a week before he died, at the age of 20, Sam had been delighted to receive news that he had been accepted to study Film and Television Production at London College of Communication.

This was his response sent in an email from India to the Admissions Office at LCC:

“Thank you so much for the offer. I must admit I had given up hope of managing a place and this has come as a complete shock, but I cannot tell you how totally and utterly over the moon I am. So without a moment’s hesitation I accept. Thank you very much, you’ve made me incredibly happy.”

Four days later Sam died of peritonitis.

We decided that this project, enabling others to pursue similar aspirations in the world of film and photography seemed befitting. He had also been very touched by the friendship and hospitality he received from the people he met on his travels in India. We therefore thought that an appropriate memorial would involve both film and the Indian sub-continent.

About Pathshala:

The institute started in 1998 in conjunction with a three-year World Press Photo educational initiative. Pathshala’s principle, Shahidul Alam, is committed to providing opportunities for students from very poor backgrounds.  The institute has an impressive record of students going on to work for major film and photographic organisations all over the world.

An extract about Pathshala from Shahidul Alam’s book My Journey as a Witness:

“[Pathshala] school of photography in one of the most economically impoverished nations, with little external support, continues to produce some of the finest emerging photographers in the world.

But its goals are much broader than simply teaching photography. It’s about using the language of imagery to bring about social change; to nurture minds and encourage critical thinking.  It’s about responsible citizenship and in a land where textual literacy is low; about reaching out where words have failed. While society relies on sleek advertising to construct and manipulate our sense of values Pathshala is about challenging the cultures of dominance.” (p. 92)

Pathshala and the Sam Banks Memorial Fund:

We wanted to set up a fund with a connection with film and India, where Sam had such enriching experiences in his last months.  When Louise met Shahidul Alam, principal of Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka, we had the perfect opportunity.

The aim is to provide financial aid for students currently enrolled at the Institute who need the support in order to continue their studies.  These students will have already been accepted into the Academy before applying for bursary funding.

Please find out more about the Pathshala South Asian Media Academy on their website

Dr Shahidul Alam, Principal of Pathshala South Asian Media Institute of Photography, delivered a lecture at Bedales School in 2013 called ‘Humanising the Other’.

Photo of Shahidul

Friday night and it is our first Global Awareness lecture: Dr Shahidul Alam, Principal of Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography (Dhaka, Bangladesh) talks about Humanizing the Other. Using the medium that has been central not only to his own professional life but also his struggle for democracy (in 1984 especially, in the protests against General Ershad) he illustrates the way that human interaction remains mired in prejudice and stereotypes and has failed to make the progress that, for example, technological change has. Alerting us for example to the way that, in the early ’90s the movement for democratic change in Bangladesh did not fit the stereotype of Bangladesh as an icon of poverty and therefore did not catch the attention of the world media but the cyclone of April ’91 did, he asked us not only to question what we see but also to “question the lexicon”; why for example, does the G8 which represents 13% of the world’s population have a right to talk about the Developing World – isn’t the Majority World a better term? Not only was his talk an alert on these broad issues, but he also asked us to think about the effect on the image of the relationship between the person who takes the photo and the subject, recounting his work in enabling photographers from all parts of his own community to learn to be photographers and the need sometimes to “take the Gallery to the People,” putting photographs onto mobile displays so that people whose own actions can easily seem invisible to themselves are able to see them and their own issues. As with all brilliant talks, Shahidul’s manner – measured, calm, kindly and beautifully articulated – worked with the images he showed to illustrate his message: that we need to be active and engaged in all spheres – Politics, Culture and Education – in order to work against all the forces that stop us recognising other people – especially those who live far away –  as human beings.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools


  1. Hello Banks family. I knew nothing about Pathshala and your memorial fund. I would love to support you. Can I send you a cheque (your address?). I think of you, and Sam, who was just a baby when we were in Bedales. And I live in n Yorkshire, I see you do a walk here… can I help?
    X ony ( tim’s (ex) wife).

    1. Hi Oni
      Lovely to hear from you! I did a sponsored walk with our Kate in 2019 from Rievaulx Abbey ending up in Whitby – it was all beautiful but very soggy. Lucky you living in such a stunning county. At the moment I am doing a sponsored swim in the Exe estuary – daily swims throughout Feb, covering just over 7 miles by the end of the month. It is very cathartic and I for some reason I feel very close to Sam in the tidal water. I’ll send you a link here to our fundraising page but if you prefer good old fashioned cheques then our address is Clays, The Strand, Lympstone, Exmouth EX8 5JR. That is very kind of you. I’ll look at your website now. Your message from the Sam B website has prompted me to update that today.

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