Preview Shadows of Pakistan @ Photoville

Alice just returned from a wonderful week in NYC, where she previewed her newest series Shadows of Pakistan at Photoville. In collaboration with United Photo Industries and Dutch Culture USA, she presented the first four works of Shadows in Pakistan in a container exhibition, right under the Brooklyn Bridge. Alice was proud to be able to give a first insight into her newest work during this festival, as she believes Photoville is magical.

According to Alice: “There is something magical about Photoville. This festival shows amazing photography, great storytelling work. And the location is absolutely amazing. When the dusk falls, and the lights are turned on, you are standing in the midst of fantastic photography, with the New York City skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge serving as a wonderful backdrop.”

About Shadows of Pakistan:

Once upon a time, in a country far, far away from here… a girl named Alice made a journey beyond imagination. She crossed the Valley of the Dead, she walked and walked, until she arrived at the Dark River. On the other side of this river, there was a land, also described as the land of the Unknowns. This land, un unknown kingdom, is where the Shadows lived. Alice was hoping to meet them, and to learn about the lives the Shadows lived.

After putting her first step onto the land of the Unknowns, Alice felt terrified. Maybe, you might say, she even felt a bit appalled. Everything around her smelled. And the smell was so, so bad. There was dirt, everywhere on the ground. There was even, literally… shit. Everywhere, of humans and of animals. The air was penetrated of all the dirt. She thought, how can it be possible to live a humane life here?

But then, a girl appeared. She smiled and waved, she wrapped a dupatta around her head and played peek a boo, as if her magical dupatta could made her disappear for a second. Alice was mesmerized. “What a beautiful girl! And she is friendly to me, although I am a stranger into her land.” But both Alice and this girl, immediately saw the magic into each other, and realized, this magic will bond them, no matter how different they might be.

Alice forgot all about time, and played with a group of little children, the young Shadows. Alice was amazed, by all the magic these children could see. Alice thought, “these children have to live in such poor circumstances, but a smile appears out of nowhere. Just a little balloon can make their day. One balloon can entertain an entire village.” They ran, they laughed, they found numerous ways to play. “They are full of imagination. They know how to create magic!” And as Alice is known to love everything magic, she felt grateful to see the children play, and asked them, if she could show them some of her magic as well. This is when she invited them into one of her fairytales. Together with the little Shadows, she recreated an old fairytale book, about the kings of old times. And the palaces of these kings, got filled with the live of the shadows. Now, if you listen well, you can hear their laughter echoing off the walls, of the magnificent palaces of medieval times.

In January 2015, Alice went to Pakistan. She had the chance to visit Islamabad, and to travel to the outskirts of the city, to Rawalpindi, Murree and other villages around, which inhabits unregistered Afghan and internal refugees. Alice got to know about the subject, through the work of two time Pulitzer prize winner Muhammed Muheisen, who had lived and worked in Pakistan for four years. Years before the refugee crisis became an important topic in Western news outlets, Muheisen’s camera was turned to the most vulnerable group of people society knows. Today, there are 2,5 million registered Afghan refugees still in Pakistan.

Then, in 2015, Muheisen gave her the chance to join him on a journey through these slums, and to meet the children he had photographed throughout those four years. This journey was one of the most challenging, and at the same time inspiring journeys Alice had made thus far. Challenging, as the danger was very present. You could almost feel it in the air. Something which is not easy to realize, when looking at the beautiful photographs of Muheisen. But there is a true danger into working there. It asks for much dedicating to give a glimpse into the lifes of these beautiful and vulnerable children.

It was, and still is, a story that touches Alice deeply. “The hardship these people have to live through is beyond my imagination. Looking at these children; makes me smile and cry at the same time. Despite the rough circumstances of their lives, they still look at you and smile. They can find magic in every corner. One moment, young siblings give a goat parade, another moment a man with a Kalashnikov appears around the corner. There is beauty, there is danger. And I would wish with all my heart that their lives could be safer.

Alice has worked on this project throughout the past three years, having become a first time mother in the meanwhile. She noticed her feelings subtly changed throughout those years. It even became a more relevant story, looking at the news reporting the refugee crisis throughout 2016. But also for her on a personal level, it became more relevant to create hope and dreams for these children. “While seeing my daughter grow day by day, I realize we can not forget how much a young live matters, as they stand for the future”.

Using the visual language of Islam medieval miniature art, she recreates the castles and depictions of the Persian empire’s courtlife. Nowadays Pakistan was once located in the Persian empire, a flourishing culture, when we in Europe were still in our dark ages. I wonder if the wealth and stories of old times, can still echo into their contemporary situation full of hardship. There situation makes me sad. I realize, my work can never be more than a prayer, a whisper of hope. But those beautiful children, they need it the most”.

To see the first examples of the newest series Shadows of Pakistan, check out the new project page on this website.