Beyond the Reach
Media: Photograph. Pigment print on Entrada Rag Natural
Size: 14 x 11″ (36 x 28 cm)
Shadow & Light Photography Project
Beyond the Reach
Saad Mehdi Shalash: PhD in history and lecturer in history at the College of Arts, al-Mustansiriya University, and editor of the newspaper Raya al-Arab. Shot dead at his home with his wife 26 October 2006. [Source: al-Quds al-Arabi, 27 October 2006].
I imagine a couple at the end of the work day. They sit in the garden talking quietly, sipping tea. They listen to the sounds of the neighborhood, and the birds chirping in a nearby orange tree. They may be sitting side by side, looking out over the same view, occasionally turning towards each other to connect with their eyes. Or maybe they sit across from each other, rubbing each other’s feet as they share the details of their days, discuss their concerns, reminisce and plan.
This was my entry point in thinking about Professor Saad Mehdi Shalash and his wife, shot dead at their home in Baghdad.
Targeted. Eliminated. An attempt to erase the influence that a teacher had on his students, the influence a newspaper editor had on his readers. History, knowledge and reason aren’t easily eradicated. The human desire to understand, grow and improve upon a given situation
is beyond the reach of ignorance and fundamentalism.
I shot about forty photographs with two chairs, one for Saad, one for his wife, in different configurations. Symbolically, two chairs indicate a place for connection and/or communication. Each two chair arrangement I made elicited a different narrative. Upon reviewing the photographs, the picture that resonated with me was one chair standing and one chair tipped over. When I look at this photo in the context of Saad and his wife’s vicious murder, I find myself trapped in the upright chair asking ”why“ with a visceral sorrow taking over my whole body. The photograph is a full-color image, shot from a ladder in an asphalt parking lot, with no photo manipulation. This cold hard backdrop comments on the harsh reality that violence against others is a solution for disagreement in today’s polarized world, often encouraged by leaders for political gain. It is the memory of Saad Mehdi Shalash and his unnamed wife, that will keep me vigilant as an activist for good.