Assaf Shoshan

1973, born in Jerusalem
Nominee - Prix Elysée 2021

Assaf Shoshan is a photographer and video artist. He examines a world in which boundaries endlessly appear and disappear, a world where time is experienced differently. His portraits and landscapes reveal an enigmatic atmosphere shrouded in surreal mystery. Between reality and fiction, Shoshan’s work has poetic scope, contemplative yet also intensely political. It explores a fundamental human dimension in the quest for identity, and the feelings of exile and belonging.


10 ans de solitude

In the autumn of 2010, thousands of “sans papiers” (illegal or undocumented immigrants) demonstrated in France’s capital, hoping to have their situation resolved. This extraordinary mobilisation took the name of “the undocumented workers’ movement”. Assaf Shoshan took more than 70 portraits of men and women, all identified only by their initials. From the perspective of both the process and the result, this series brings to mind the desperately desired “identity papers” with their official photos intended to “stabilise” their identity.

Ten years after he first met these asylum seekers from Mali and Senegal in a squat in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, Shoshan decided to find out what had happened to each of them. This is the theme of 10 Years of Solitude, the new project he is presenting here.

With this mission, he hoped to take their portraits with the same constraints, but ten years later, to illustrate a transformation, capture the mobility of life and the time that passes, capture what has changed for them and whether or not they have managed to obtain their papers. He seeks to capture the traces of this struggle. Since Shoshan only has the initials of the asylum seekers that he photographed, his quest proves to be long and uncertain.

“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 meeting their gaze? The answer lies in the details”. 

This project is very close to his heart… it is long, delicate and perilous. Assaf Shoshan raises the question of – and gropes for the answer to – his role as a photographer and his role as a human being.