The Shortest Distance Between Us
Stories from the Arab Documentary Photography Program
4—9 FEB 2019
I couldn't have asked for a more stimulating and invigorating selection of works for my first group exhibition project. From Nadia Bseiso's muted, atmospheric documentation of life around the dwindling water supply in the face of the Red-Dead Sea Conveyance, to Zied Ben Romdhane's stark monochromes of phosphate mining in Tunisia—what ties The Shortest Distance Between Us together is the active participation of the photographers within the communities they photograph.
_Design & Production
Working under Jessica Murray's curation,
If the shortest distance between each of us is a story, in a world of parallel lives and intersectingrealities, we can become better acquainted if we actively share stories. The familiarity that is bornthrough shared narratives opens up the possibility of collectively tending to each other and to theworld.
The Arab Documentary Photography Program* was established in 2014 to lend support andmentorship to Arab photographers and amplify compelling non-stereotypical and unconventionalvisual documentation of important social issues and narratives relevant to the region.
Five years on, what sets apart the work of the emerging photographers and visual artists of thisprogram is that they are not just witnesses to the stories and events unfolding around them, they arealso active participants. Members of the generations that have come of age post 2001, they exploresubjects that are relevant to their own lives.
For this exhibition we’ve chosen to highlight work made by Zied Ben Romdhane from Tunisia, NadiaBsieso from Jordan, Hicham Gardaf from Morocco, Elsie Haddad from Lebanon, Omar Imam fromSyria, Heba Khalifa, and Mohamed Mahdy, both from Egypt. They employ a diversity of styles,appropriate for addressing the complexities of the vast and heterogeneous region.
These are stories of war and forced displacement, of gender violence, of the psychologicaleffects of incarceration and re-entry, of declining health indicators, labour exploitation andperpetual poverty, of the mishandling of important natural resources, and of uncheckedurban growth. Each photographer refuses an oversimplification in their documentation.Instead, they choose to put themselves on the same plane as their subjects, which theydo in different ways, seeing their subjects not as victims but as witnesses, testifying to ashared reality.
While the intention of these photographers and visual artists is not to provide us withanswers, what they do achieve through their work is to help us frame the right questions.We hope that this type of visual storytelling inspires a vocabulary that helps shorten thedistance between us, reinforcing the trust and confidence so essential to building a futurethat is less exploitative, less violent, more respectful of the soul and of the natural worldin which we are temporarily leasing space.
*The Arab Documentary Photography Program (ADPP) is an initiative of The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) and Prince Claus Fund in partnership with Magnum Foundation.
Curated by Jessica Murray of Al-liquindoi
Produced by Raz Hansrod
Special thanks to Nińo Consorte Cavellas