My photo and video work focuses on issues of culture, nationality and gender through the layers of my own identity and history. My aim is to connect people through intimate visual stories. This impulse first began as a young, Afghan American woman in a post 9/11 landscape, and grew in subsequent years, as divisions between non-Muslim Americans and Muslims deepened. I was compelled to provide a counter depiction of Afghanistan, my birthplace, and give people the opportunity to reconnect to a shared humanity.
Much of my work explores familial history, cultural expectations, and gender norms. I examine how the repression of events is passed between generations as an unspoken trauma. I use video to recreate uncomfortable silences and reveal the secrets buried within. This personal trajectory has developed into an inquiry into collective histories of personal and public trauma.
In my aesthetic choices, I position the viewer to face injustices that continue to reverberate in society. My female characters find empowerment within their oppression, illuminating the contradictions and complexities of gender and culture, while challenging stereotypes of powerlessness and victimhood. Presenting video in multi-channel formats and in public installations disrupts traditional storytelling methods and resists myopic characterizations of the “other,” while photographs allow for a trace image.
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan and raised in rural Washington state, Gazelle Samizay’s work often reflects the complexities and contradictions of culture, nationality and gender through the lens of her bicultural identity. Her work in photography, video and mixed media has been exhibited across the US and internationally, including at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; the California Museum of Photography, Riverside; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Slamdance Film Festival, Park City, UT. Her pieces are part of the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY; and En Foco, NY. In addition to her studio practice, her writing has been published in One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature and she is a founding member of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association. Samizay has received numerous awards and residencies, including from the Princess Grace Foundation, NY; Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles; the Arizona Community Foundation, Phoenix; Level Ground, Los Angeles, the Torrance Art Museum, and Side Street Projects, Los Angeles. She received her MFA in photography at the University of Arizona and currently lives in San Francisco.