Fazal Sheikh photographs displaced people in Africa, South Asia, and the Americas. In books and installations, he combines photographs with the personal testimony of his subjects, producing sustained portraits of communities that address their beliefs and traditions, as well as their political and economic problems. The current exhibition includes work from his latest series—Moksha (Heaven) and Ladli (Beloved Daughters)—which reflect on the position of women in rural India. The exhibition is presented in conjunction with Brown University's Year of India.
Sheikh spends long periods with the people he photographs. As he explains, "It is one thing to photograph a group of people and another to try to understand them. For that you need time, and patience, and an innate respect for difference. . . . At a time when traditional photographic coverage is often limited to a brief stopover and a search for sensational images, the need to take time and represent and understand the people whose lives and values are very different from our own is greater than ever."
Moksha portrays the northern Indian holy city of Vrindavan, where dispossessed widows go to devote themselves to Krishna and seek moksha, or final release from the cycle of death and rebirth. The exhibition weaves cityscapes, interiors, street views, and portraits into a complex, cinematic vision.
Ladli examines the lives of girls and young women who, despite progressive laws, are routinely denied their human, civil, and economic rights in an India that remains tradition bound despite recent rapid economic growth.
Sheikh worked with a variety of non-governmental organizations in Delhi, Ahmedabad, and the Pubjab to meet girls and young women who helped him understand the social practices that continue to imperil and limit the prospects of girls and women.