As part of Photography+ #4 Staged, we spoke to Hoda Afshar about her practice and the ways she merges conceptual, staged and documentary photography. Showing here her series Remain, made in collaboration with refugees held in a remote offshore detention centre.
Could you explain your practice in a few sentences?
My work is an interrogation of how our political system both distributes the sensible order and metes out punishment. I also look critically at the medium of photography, and how it has always colluded with that same power dynamic. My work often involves a collaboration – a thorough one rather than a merely symbolic one – with those who are subject to the absurd laws of power.
What one thing has most helped to shape your practice?
Migration and the experience of cultural and geographical displacement. It threw me outside the normal order.
Why photography? Why the still image?
I first became obsessed with the ability of photography to make visible unseen and hidden realities – the intrusive nature of the camera and the spectacle that it creates. Later this intrusiveness became a point of interrogation in my practice. I gradually became more interested in the relationship between photography and truth, and the realities that the camera is capable of creating and perpetuating.
Where do your ideas begin?
They aren’t ideas: they are hard facts that exist around me, and that I intuitively respond to.
A few new projects are in the making. One is about whistleblowers in Australia, and will be launched at the PHOTO 2020 festival in Melbourne next year. Another traces the history of the orientalist gaze on the bodies of Islamic women in European photographic archives from 1900 to 1930. The final one is a long-form project focusing on the lingering heritage of the African slave trade in the Persian Gulf in the 18th and 19th centuries.
For more from #4 Staged, click here.
For more from Hoda’s work, click here.