Fazal Sheikh


For the past 25 years, Fazal Sheikh has photographed displaced and marginalized members of society, particularly refugees, in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. His principle medium is the portrait, although his work also encompasses personal narratives, found photographs, archival material, sound, and his own written texts. He works from the conviction that a portrait is, as far as possible, an act of mutual engagement, and only through a long-term commitment to a place and to a community can a meaningful series of photographs be made. Sheikh spends weeks, months, or even years with the communities he portrays, developing an understanding of their history and culture and building a collaborative rapport with the individuals he photographs. Running throughout his work are threads of memory and history, remembrances of homes and loved ones that were once—and remain—essential elements of individual and community identity. Sheikh explores those threads not only in the faces of individuals, but also in their visible traces on the landscape and in the way they are revealed poetically in moments of transition—dawn and dusk, dreams and death. His overall aim is to contribute to a wider understanding of these groups, to respect them as individuals and to counter the ignorance and prejudice that often attaches to them.

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