Migrant Portraiture and Life Imaging in Fazal Sheikh’s Photodocumentaries
This article explores the role of migrant photo portraiture for life imaging by providing a close reading of two photobooks by contemporary photographer Fazal Sheikh – A Sense of Common Ground (1996) and The Victor Weeps. Afghanistan (1998). Visual storytelling is a core feature of this social and humanitarian photographer’s work, through which two main questions are addressed: how are real-life migration experiences as survival stories and personal biographies inscribed in the portraits of refugees and migrants? Which form(at)s of portraits are chosen, and which practices of portrayal are employed for the purpose of documenting migrant lives? Based on Jean-Luc Nancy’s portrait theory and Giorgio Agamben’s notion of ‘bare life’, the author introduces a process-analytical category of the ‘migrant/refugee portrait’ in order to grasp the complex (de-)figuration processes connected with the sociopolitical issues of human displacement. In Sheikh’s long-term portrayal of migrant/refugee communities and his concept of relational portraiture, she recognizes an effective documentary photo practice for de-othering and demigrantizing the portrait of the migrant as a stereotypical representation of the ‘other’.
Agamben, Giorgo. Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. Print.
Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Meridien 1958. Print.
Azoulay, Ariella. The Civil Contract of Photography. New York: Zone Books, 2008. Print.
Boehm, Gottfried. Bildnis und Individuum. Über den Ursprung der Porträtmalerei in der italienischen Renaissance. Köln: Prestel, 1985. Print.
Cadava, Eduardo. “Trees, Hands, Stars, and Veils: The Portrait in Ruins.” Introduction to Fazal Sheikh. Portraits. Göttingen: Steidl 2011. 5-43. Print.
Jobey, Liz. “Fazal Sheikh: A Sense of Common Ground.” Fazal Sheikh. Exhibition catalogue MAPFRE Foundation. Madrid, 2009. 15-31. Available online under https://www.fazalsheikh.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Fazal-Sheikh/Essays/liz_jobey.pdf.
Mavroudi, Elizabeth, and Caroline Nagel. Global Migration. Patters, Processes, and Politics. London: Routledge, 2017. Print.
Le Masurier, Megan. “What is Slow Journalism?” Journalism Practice, 9.2 (2015): 138-152.
Light, Ken. “Fazal Sheikh. Portrait of a Refugee.” Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers. Ed. Ken Light. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2010. 153-162. Print.
Nancy, Jean Luc. L’Autre Portrait. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 2014. Print.
Padley, Gemma. “Slow Photojournalism: The Rise of Long-term Assignments.” BBC News 21 December 2015. Available online under https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-35039054. Accessed 6 September 2018.
Römhild, Regina. “Jenseits ethnischer Grenzen. Für eine postmigrantische Kultur- und Gesellschaftsforschung.“ Nach der Migration. Postmigrantische Perspektiven jenseits der Parallelgesellschaft. Eds. In: Yildiz, Erol, and Marc Hill. transcript: Bielefeld, 2015. 37-48.
Sheikh, Fazal. The Victor Weeps. Afghanistan, Zurich: Scalo, 1998. Print.
Sheikh, Fazal. A Sense of Common Ground. Zurich: Scalo, 1996. Print.
Sikking, Iris. “A Thing Called Slow Journalism.” issuu 22 May 2010. Web. https://issuu.com/bintphotobooks/docs/slowjournalism.
Papastergiadis, Nikos. The Turbulence of Migration. Globalization, Deterritorialization and Hybridity. London: Polity, 2000. Print.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Birgit Mersmann
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
This work by https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/imaginations is licensed under a Creative Commons 4.0 International License although certain works referenced herein may be separately licensed, or the author has exercised their right to fair dealing under the Canadian Copyright Act.