10 years of solitude

  • Sira, Jardin du Silence, Villejuif, 2020

  • Aboubacar, rue Robespierre Bagnolet 2020

  • Nyake, Avenue de la Résistance, Montreuil, 2019

  • Bakary O, Rue de Picpus, Paris 2020

  • Aminata, Rue Jules Ferry, Montreuil, 2019

  • Boure, Passage du Génie, Paris, 2019

  • Toure, Rue Louis Blanc, Paris 2019

  • Yada, Jardin des Poètes, Paris, 2019

  • Mamadou, Quai du Port, Saint-Denis, 2019

Ten years after he first met T.N. and other asylum seekers from Mali and Senegal in a squat in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, Assaf Shoshan decided to find out what had happened to each of them. But along the way, he stumbled onto a different subject: the story of workers living under false identities, hiding behind names they borrow from men and women, immigrants that have already regularized their situation.

Hiding behind a false identity means forfeiting access to social security and living with the constant fear of discovery and deportation. For these immigrants, the stakes are high: discovery would spell failure, and failure would be the end of their asylum applications.

How do you photograph people in hiding? That question intrigued Shoshan and ultimately led him to start this project. How do you tell the story of a woman or a man without ever showing their eyes?

The answer lies in the details. A hand, bleached by the sun, rising up to shield a face. A head that turns away; eyes that close on the moment. A body swallowed by the shadows. Faces that are always hidden, exiled from the frame.

Shoshan moves in and around his subjects, his gaze is piercing, but never threatening. His images recount the desolation of these people, the sad smallness
of their bodies in vast, empty spaces. He catches their reflexes, the way they instinctively dodge his lens to slip silently away, out of the light. Shoshan’s portraits speak of how these men and women yearn for refuge in a country that only talks of foreignness.