Join us for an artist talk with Asher Imtiaz on Friday, July 28th at 7:30pm. Doors are open from 7-9pm.
About the exhibit:
All of us need to know where to stand.
For a photographer, where you stand makes all the difference. The infinite number of places to stand yields an infinite number of perspectives. Even the small distance between your left and right eye gives you two different perspectives. For a photographer, moving slightly left or slightly right, a little forward or back, makes a different picture. The composition changes. Some things come into view and some things disappear depending on where one stands.
Asher Imtiaz has often chosen to stand among immigrants and refugees, meeting them with kindness and attention. Some of the people in these pictures have needed to flee war or famine. Some have sought new geographies for better opportunities for themselves or their children. We all make choices about where to stand geographically.
And we all need to know where to stand convictionally. When confronted with differing viewpoints, doubt, or conflict, how do we know where to stand politically, socially, or theologically? Many feel this has been especially difficult in recent years. Knowing where to stand isn’t a simple matter.
It’s not a simple matter and it’s also not static. Along with the need to know where to stand is the equally important need to know when to move on. In Asher’s photographs, we witness his ability to flexibly move into new spaces. Originally from Pakistan, Asher began photographing religious minority groups there. This included his own community of Christians living in a majority-Muslim country. Since moving to the United States in 2012 for graduate studies, his photographs have focused on immigrants, but more recently, he’s also found his photographic subjects expanding again to include a broader look at America, documenting life here in both heightened moments such as the streets of Minneapolis after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, as well as in the daily routines of subway rides in New York City or life on the Navajo reservation, for example. The ability to graciously enter other people’s spaces and see them as they are is an admirable skill.
Wherever Asher finds himself, he’s drawn to people. Humanity is his true subject. My awareness that Asher is a Christian leads me to wonder how much his faith impacts the way he sees and photographs. Asher’s vision seems to align with Jesus’ way of seeing. The gospels frequently note Jesus seeing people. When approaching the city of Jerusalem, “He saw the city and wept over it.” He sees the crowds, too, but most of the notes about Jesus seeing in the gospels are closer up and intimate. He sees a blind man lying on the ground. He sees the woman at the well. He sees Nathanael under the fig tree. While he’s on the cross he sees his mother. In all these instances and more, Jesus’ vision is characterized by compassion (Matthew 9:36) and that’s the same spirit that comes through in these photographs.
Through the magic trick of photography we are able to stand where Asher stood and see what he saw. Our way of seeing overlaps with his way of seeing and our imaginations may expand a little to include this new way of looking.