Critics’ Picks

Tanya Habjouqa, The Last Image of Abu Abdullah, 2012, ink-jet print, 8 x 12".

San Francisco

“In Transit”

SF Camerawork
1011 Market Street 2nd Floor
January 24–March 15

Among the poignant works in the group exhibition “In Transit,” Tanya Habjouqa’s project “Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots,” 2012–17, chronicles the changing lives of Syrian widows and children living in a Jordanian housing development. The series' title references the Levant colloquialism “in the season of apricots,” akin to “in your dreams.” In one photograph, a woman’s hands tenderly hold a cell phone displaying the last image taken of her husband before his death. The widow grieved her passionate marriage, but she now negotiates life with a Jordanian husband, whom she was pressured to marry. As they mourn and dream, Syrian widows grapple with their limited options for immigration, social status, and financial stability.

While Habjouqa’s poetic language frames loss, Stefanie Zofia Schulz pierces the misnomer of an asylum housing center in Lebach-Jabach, Germany, referred to as the Lager, which the artist translates as “holiday camp.” While the term suggests a pleasant, temporary escape, some asylum-seekers have been detained there for fifteen years—a situation closer to the term's other translation, “warehouse.” Most of Schulz’s photographs depict the daily lives of young children trying to keep themselves occupied—jumping on a bed, watching cartoons, sitting in front of a fan—and the arresting stillness of adolescents staring into space. Children growing up in the complex struggle with the boredom and anxiety of protracted detention in a camp that is, in some cases, the only home they’ve known.

Because many of these artists have multinational or diasporic backgrounds, they possess the sensitivity to address the personal narratives of their subjects. Their long-term projects have allowed them to work intimately with people in transient situations. In addition to advocating for a compassionate global response to immigration, they demonstrate a personal investment in their subjects.