Saturday, June 24, 2017

Khadija Saye

Khadija Saye was a young photographer killed in the Grenfell Tower fire. There has been an outpouring of grief in the photographic community, with dozens, perhaps 100s, of retweets of the "such a loss, so sad" form.

Interestingly, this vast outpouring of grief generally just copies (automatically?) the same handful of tintypes from a recent show of her work someplace.

I am going to go on the record and say this: I had never heard of her, and I do not believe that most of the grievers had either. In general, they cannot be buggered to even google her and see if she did anything except these tintypes. Even the online "press" (PetaPixel, PDNOnline) simply copies the same pictures. You have to go to her obit on BJP's web site (or, you know, her own damn web site) to see if she did anything else.

I offer no grief here, beyond the general sense that it is always a tragedy when a life is cut short, whether that life had promise or not. Was she destined for greatness? I do not know, and it does not matter. The tragedy is the same whether she was to be the darling of the Fine Art set, or a grocer.

I will say that she did some interesting pictures. Here is her web site. I commend to you especially the Eid project, which works, for me, on several levels. I don't know anything about it. It appears to be a religious gathering, and also a gathering of people from perhaps a shared culture, and also a beautiful study of color. Saye could see, she could edit, she could sequence.

Note the colors of the carpets, of the robes (religious?), of the "street clothes", and on the floor itself. Perhaps this group of people just happens to use the same color palette for everything, but even so, that in itself is a nice observation.

I think her use of color, and her observations of contemporary African-descended peoples, are both much more interesting than some staged tintypes of.. well, of we know not what, honestly, other than the line or two about "migration of traditional Gambian spiritual practices" which really tells us nothing.

But your opinion may differ. Regardless of any considerations of your opinion and mine, she at least deserves our attention to all her work if we are to attend to her at all.


  1. I share some of your misgivings, although I do think it is a salutary wake-up for many in Britain that even here people are living creative lives, and even here everyone's life deserves the greatest possible respect and protection, even if they're not here entirely legally (these are not truths we hold to be self-evident, it seems).

    What interested me more, though, was the way the webs of influence and privilege had already reached out to her; a scholarship to prestigious private school Rugby at 16, FFS, a connection with the local MP and his wife (who happens to be a well-connected artist), and other vital open doors to a creative career. Her work is already at the Venice Biennale!

    I don't think it's too cynical to say that *who* she was mattered as much as what she was potentially capable of, in a country still coming to terms with "diversity": the more sensitive among the privileged are painfully aware of their privilege, and this awareness -- shall we call it "guilt"? -- has become a significant driver in contemporary culture.

    It's "Grenfell", btw.


    1. Thanks for the correction.

      I find it slightly disheartening also that much of her work, not necessarily stunning but certainly with some interest and potential, is ignored in favour of the maybe inevitable Me-focused process-intense tintypes.

      It's not Art, apparently, if you just bring a point of view and a way of seeing that's maybe fresh, maybe interesting.