I will definitely be taking the train out to Princeton for this. I first saw Sheikh’s work at the The Tate Modern’s landmark photo exhibit, Cruel & Tender. His large, formal portraits of Somali woman with the accompanying text of the horrors they had survived, changed my understanding of photojournalism forever (and moved me to tears.) The exhibit at Princeton, is of his new body of work documenting the lives of women in India. The accompanying book is an extraordinary story of a country caught between its traditions and the modern world. What makes Fazal so special to me, is that he is never really present in his photographs, in the sense that the subject of his portraits is the subject of the portrait – they are named, and their story is told. Often in work that documents the suffering of others, despite the good intentions of the photographer, the work becomes about the artist, and the person in the image is objectified. Fazal Sheihk transcends these issues to make us think and feel about other people. I highly recommend you read Ladli, his Stedhl published book of the project available on his website for free. In a world populated with artists desperately concerned with their own importance, he is a rare gem. It is easy to say you care about what happens in the 3rd world, to poor people, to those who are truly suffering in the world, but it is quite a feat to give people there dignity, a voice and to make us look them in the eye and therefore show us that we are all the same.

Beloved Daughters: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh
September 29, 2007 – January 6, 2008

For almost two decades, artist-activist Fazal Sheikh has worked in communities of the displaced in Africa, South Asia, and the Americas. In 2005 he published his fifth book, Moksha (Heaven), which evokes, through photographs and testimonials, the lives of dispossessed widows in the northern Indian holy city of Vrindavan. Awarded both a MacArthur Fellowship and the International Henri Cartier-Bresson Grand Prize that year, Sheikh (Princeton Class of 1987) traveled to Delhi to create a new project, Ladli (Beloved Daughter), exploring the challenges that confront girls and young women in a fast-changing yet tradition-bound society. The two projects are combined in this eye-opening and thought-provoking exhibition.

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