Looking Back

Jamel Shabazz

March 2, 2018

Jamel Shabazz, Hope and Promise, 2014. Courtesy the artist


We asked Jamel Shabazz to tell us about a picture that means something to him, and why. His work is on view in Shabazz/Theodore (with Shawn Theodore) at Snap! Space in Orlando, Florida, through May 12 and is included in the group show Prison Nation at Aperture through March 7.  

I had the great opportunity to cross paths with these two precious and innocent children during a visit to Montreal back in 2014, where I was invited to conduct a workshop on documentary photography by a community-based organization in partnership with McGill University. In attendance were a combination of young children, teenagers, and adults, most coming from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Just moments before I was about to start the workshop, I noticed these two beautiful girls fully engaged in a friendly game of “patty cake” just a few feet from me. I marveled at the deep love they had for one another; both seemed totally insulated from a larger world consumed with hate and discord.

Without hesitation, I raised my camera and made what I felt deep down inside would be one of my most important images. At that very moment, I knew that the photograph would be entitled Hope and Promise.

Photography is a universal and unique language, understood throughout the world. It is my hope that this image will inspire love, tolerance, and understanding in a world so full of bigotry and disharmony.