Visual Arts

Fazal Sheikh

Fazal Sheikh headshot

Fazal Sheikh, photographer, poses in his flat in Zurich, Switzerland, Friday, September 16, 2005. (KEYSTONE/Alessandro Della Bella)


Fazal Sheikh is an artist who uses photographs to document people living in displaced and marginalized communities around the world. 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. 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.

Each of his projects is collected and published and is exhibited internationally in galleries and museums. He also works closely with human rights organizations and believes in disseminating his work in forms that can be distributed as widely as possible and can be of use to the communities themselves.

Fazal Ilahi Sheikh was born in 1965 in New York City. He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in 1987 and since then has worked as a photographer documenting the lives of individuals in displaced communities across East Africa, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Brazil, Cuba, India and Israel/Palestine. He has received many awards for his work, including a Fulbright Fellowship (1992), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1994), the Infinity Award (1995), the Leica Medal of Excellence (1995), Le Prix Dialogue de l’Humanité, Rencontres d’Arles (2003), the Henri Cartier-Bresson International Grand Prize (2005), the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (finalist, 2008), the Lucie Humanitarian Award (2009), the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis (2009 and 2016), and the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award (2016) .

In 2005 he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and in 2012 a Guggenheim Fellow.

Fazal Sheikh’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, including Tate Modern, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography and the United Nations, New York City, the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, Paris, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow. His work is held by many public collections, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, New York City; the National Gallery of Art, Washington; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; and the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 2001, as one facet of his practice, Sheikh established a series of projects and books about international human rights issues that would be published and distributed free of charge and made available online. These are published under the imprint of the International Human Rights Series (IHRS). This website is, therefore, a record of his work to date and constitutes an online exhibition, a publishing resource, and an archive.