Irish photographer Andrew McConnell began taking arresting, on-the-ground pictures of the religious and political turmoil in his country and its subsequent transition to peace in the mid 1990s. McConnell’s work has since taken him from Europe to Asia and most recently to Africa, where he documented a group of people largely overlooked by the international media. These are the Ghosts of the Sahara, Sahrawi refugees whose Western Sahara homeland was illegally invaded by Morocco in 1975. Many Sahrawis immediately fled to Algeria, but those who remain are a scattered tribe ruled by Moroccan militants and imprisoned by a mined, man-made sand wall that spans 2,400 km.
Gallery: Ghosts of the Sahara
McConnell’s portraits highlight his subjects’ isolation against a backdrop of night sky. “I wanted to give a sense that this is one long night for the Sahrawi—lasting 35 years,” he said. A lambent spotlight shines on each individual in his portraits, reminding the world of their forgotten existence.
Co-curated by Newsweek’s International Photo Editor James Price and writer Anna Van Lenten, the award-winning exhibition, Andrew McConnell: Ghosts of the Sahara is on view at The Half King Gallery, New York City from April 12 to June 7, 2011.
Lizzie Crocker is an editorial assistant at The Daily Beast. She has written for NYLON, NYLON Guys, and thehandbook.co.uk, a London-based website.