Featured image credit: Somali Sideways.
Every so often we find a Muslim photographer who is not only unfairly talented, but also determined to dismantle misconceptions around Islam through their work. Remember when we showed you that trio of incredible female Muslim photographers the other month? They all cast Muslim women in an entirely new light and it was great.
Somali Sideways is a photo project that is looking to do something similar. However, it focuses on repositioning perceptions of Somalis and the diaspora – a people who often suffer from negative stereotypes.
The project was started by Mohamed Mohamud, a 24-year-old graduate of Brunel University in London. It originally began with Mohamed taking all of the photos himself, but soon enough he was receiving submissions from all over the world. Each photo featured a Somali, standing side-on to the camera. As the portraits rolled in, Somali Sideways grew into a platform-slash-community where Somalis and the diaspora could share their stories.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Mohamed explained the reasoning behind the sideways pose: ‘On one side it’s about sharing stories [you] wish to share … and the other side remains a mystery.’
When you think about how limited depictions of Somalis in popular culture are, the clarity of the side-on symbolism feels really vital. The photos are posted on the Somali Sideways website and Instagram, accompanied by a caption that reveals the subject’s story. They come from all over the world, but many of the more recent ones emanate from the United States, probably due to Mohamed’s recent travels to Minnesota – a state with a large Somali community.
The subjects’ stories cover issues as complex and diverse as immigration and identity, while others deal in the normal flow of everyday lives. But without a doubt, they all reflect the words Mohamed wrote on the Somali Sideways website about starting the project: ‘I started it because whenever I’m around Somalis, whether it be in cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, social gatherings they seem to always have many stories to share with their friends and family.’
We have chosen some of our favourite stories and posted them below.