Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fazal Sheikh

© Fazal Sheikh, All Rights Reserved

Fazal Sheikh is an extraordinary documentary photography, who has spent almost twenty years documenting displaced and marginalized communities around the world. Beginning in the early 90's, his subjects have included refugee communities in Kenya, Afghan communities living under the Taliban and in the wake of the Soviet occupation, the indigenous people of Pantanal, Brazil, and widows and orphans of India. Spending months to years living with the communities, Sheikh combines portraits, text and oral histories to creates deeply humanistic portraits of communities struggling in the face of conflict.

© Fazal Sheikh, All Rights Reserved    © Fazal Sheikh, All Rights Reserved

Recently, Sheikh has been offering his books, in their entirety and free of charge, on-line. In the face of dwindling opportunities for long-term investigative documentary work, Sheikh's efforts to forge new venues for presenting his work and drawing attention to these communities is more than impressive. As stated on his website,

In 2001 Fazal Sheikh conceived of a series of projects that would engage an international audience, furthering their understanding of complex human rights issues around the world. The projects would take a variety of forms – books, films, exhibitions – and be disseminated as widely as possible, using means that offered an alternative to traditional publishing and distribution. As part of the ideology behind the series, where possible the projects have been offered in their entirety on-line, where they may be read free of charge. Books are also available in bookshops at a subsidized price and for sale over the Internet. Proceeds from sales are being donated to the International Humanitarian Fund (IHF) established in conjunction with the Volkart Foundation, Switzerland, for the benefit of the communitiesrepresented.

His books include A Sense of Common Ground, which examines refugee communities in Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi; The Victor Weeps (DVD version here), which explores communities living in the aftermath of post-Soviet Taliban Afghanistan; Moksha, which looks at the lives of dispossessed widows abandoned by their families and society at large and left to live in religious ashrams in Vrindavan, India; and most recently Ladli, about the plight of young women and girls in modern India.

Sheikh, who has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, along with dozens of other awards, including a Fulbright and National Endowment for the Arts grant, will be exhibiting his most recent work this fall
at Pace/MacGill.