Sunday, 20 January 2008

Fazal Sheikh: The Victor Weeps


I won't describe Fazal Sheikh as documentary photographer because he's much more than that. His subjects include Indian widows, Sudanese and Somali refugees at camps in Kenya, survivors of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the indigenous people of Pantanal, Brazil, and immigrants from Mexico.

He makes formal portraits of his subjects; he interviews them and tells their life stories...he lives among them and lives like them. His are portraits of human dignity. Nothing else I can write will adequately describe his craft and his humanity.

In a previous post on Fazal, I wrote: "Here's the work of a photographer who, by any definition, is the pride of this profession; Fazal Sheikh not only makes pictures, he presents us an unblinking, but immensely compassionate view of the poor and disenfranchised...he doesn't only photograph, but interviews his subjects about their lives, he adds his own commentary on the people, their country, and the situation in which he finds them."

Fazal starts The Victor Weeps with this: "To Sheikh Fazal Ilahi, the grandfather I never met but for whom I am named." I, too, was named after my grandfather and never met him...and my father was named after his grandfather and he never met him. Perhaps that's one of the many reasons I found this photo essay so compelling.

Here's the agonizingly beautiful The Victor Weeps...it's an incomparable photo essay that must be savored over time...slowly viewed and read. The prose is as beautiful as the photographs, and give them texture and meaning.