Tariq Tarey: 'I’m a very intimate photographer'

The photographer wants to bring together Africans and African Americans through his work.

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Tariq Tarey photographs Papa Kalala in his studio.

Tariq Tarey, Photographer 

From the moment he first picked up a camera in 2002, the Somali portrait photographer has focused on documenting the experiences of his fellow refugees. Now, he’s thinking about a different kind of project, one that would bridge the divide between Africans and African Americans in Columbus. 

Tariq Tarey photographs Papa Kalala in his studio.

On the pandemic’s impact on his work: “I couldn’t travel. I couldn’t photograph people. I’m a very intimate photographer. I touch people’s faces. I move them, for my photographs. It’s insane not to touch people and not to talk to them and have to wear a mask. That really put a huge dent in my artistic ability to do documentary work.” 

Tariq Tarey

On the African immigrant mindset: “When we come here, we are so focused on jobs, raising our families, moving to the suburbs. We just want to fit in, and we just want to do what America wants us to do. We ignore engaging with people who look like us, who are descendants of slaves.” 

Photographs pinned to a wall in Tariq Tarey's studio

On his outreach idea: Inspired by the racial justice protests, Tarey wants to help his fellow Africans in Columbus better understand the African American experience. He envisions a project that would bring the two groups together, with photographs of “individuals who otherwise would never speak to each other.” The exhibition would also include focus groups and dialogue. “That is the direction I want to head: Engage both communities and bring a true conversation, a conversation where there is no white person involved, just an African American and African immigrant having a conversation and understanding one another.”