Our community manager interviewed Thana Faroq, one of the talents Der Greif nominated to join FUTURES in 2022. They spoke about Faroq's practice and how she utilizes writing in her work.
Der Greif: Hi, Thana! Firstly, congratulations on being selected by Der Greif as a FUTURES talent. Can you tell us what this nomination means for you as an artist?
Thana: Thank you very much. It's a beautiful recognition and an excellent opportunity to share my work with a larger audience. Visibility is key in my work because I like to engage the viewer in making different interpretations of what I present, so this nomination provides me with a solid platform to make this happen. I very much appreciate it and it's an honor.
Der Greif: Would you be able to give us some background on your project “How shall we greet the sun”?
Thana: In this project, I create a photographic exploration about a generation of women refugees in The Netherlands, how their identity is constructed and deconstructed from their current land and the one they left behind. I spent the last two years documenting the aftermath that occurs after finding new soil to step safely upon. Physical belongings may not be ours anymore, but the emotional baggage that comes from the situational and physical process of relocation comes for free; sponsored by life itself. We are in a kind of archaeological restoration program, where we try to build and construct a new life over the ruins of our past losses. Our homes are under construction. Our bodies are under construction. Our finances are under construction.
My goal is to explore our emotional interior landscape in light of the changes that we go through. I aim to create a memory archive of our emotions and feelings that are often lost in histories of migration and displacement.
Der Greif: What has been the hardest part about representing female refugees through your images?
Thana: Stories of migration and displacement are complex. There is no single narrative. We undergo a lot of changes and our identity reflects that. I am constantly questioning my methods, my tools, and my visual language; I stress the importance that the viewer does not see my subjects as fodder for news articles or as infantilised victims to be pitied. This hasn't been hard, but a huge commitment, and I hope to present my women in a way that dignifies their journey and experiences.
Der Greif: Your practice carefully considers the emotions of those you photograph. How do you conceptualize emotions using your camera? How do you relate your own emotions to those that you work with?
Thana: In this project, I might visualise emotions, or I might hide them. We might be cruel or kind. We might be nice or nasty. We might be happy, or we might be angry. I can show and do whatever I want with photography, and that is what I love about it. The camera captures the full spectrum of emotional responses. The aim of this project is to provide a space for my women to be whomever they want.
The collaborative aspect of this project allows me to access these emotions in their different phases of rebuilding and establishing their lives. And I relate to them because I myself go through the same process of relocating and integrating. I encounter the same challenges and difficulties. What they experience is not foreign to me.
Der Greif: As an accomplished author, what role does writing play for you in your process? Can you share a small excerpt of your favorite piece that you’ve written?
Thana: Sometimes I only know what I photograph once I confront it with words. I also push the limit of photography when writing, mainly when I use the text as an image. They are not a substitute for one another; they complement each other. It is a space where I look for possibilities and negotiate and reconcile my vulnerability and insecurities in the making process. This is my favorite piece, a diary list from my project "I was younger yesterday" on undocumented asylum seekers in the Netherlands:
1. I fed the pigeons.
2. I ran out of sugar.
3. I drank the tea with no sugar.
4. I sang in the shower.
5. I am a sound.
6. I made a phone call. No one listens to the dead.
7. I scratched my itch.
8. I had a stroke of luck.
9. I walked at various speeds, mostly slowly.
10. I made myself invisible.
11. I slept.
12. I turned the light on to see where it hurts.
13. I stared out the window.
14. I fed the pigeons again.
15. I wrote a letter to God, short and sweet.
16. I waited for God to respond.
17. I made a cheese sandwich. The cheese looked sad and old.
18. I headed out.
19. I wore a smile on my face, the same way I put on my socks.
20. I watched myself breathing in, and I watched myself breathing out.
21. I smelled today’s heat.
22. I floated still in the air.
23. I felt the weight of my despair.
1. I am a problem.
Der Greif: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned through photography over the past year?
Thana: Sometimes I must let go of having fixed ideas about the intended outcomes. Instead, I need to embrace the surprises and engage in the unexpected. Something beautiful and meaningful will eventually emerge as long as I keep creating.
Der Greif: Do you believe in the ability of photography to generate political change? Is this one of your aims, why or why not?
Thana: With focused goals and commitment to the subject matter, yes, it can happen, but this is a great responsibility that we load photography with that it exists "to make change".Also, this constant pressure to make a change takes away the joy of making work; therefore, It was never my aim. Instead, my goals are to create a healing space and develop a notion of care and empathy through my work.
Der Greif: Thank you for your time! Lastly, what happening right now in contemporary photography particularly excites you?
Thana: It's a good question. We begin to see more experiments and processes than just a final work. I appreciate this aspect of photography, and it's fascinating to see what's going on inside the maker's brain during the creation phase. We see work that activates all our senses and engages the audience in the work.
The playfulness in the work we see today is very inviting. I also think it's an exciting time now when we are empowered by different tools to tell the story, and photography happens to be one of them.