This book is an intimate personal correspondence between two leading political artists at a time of crisis. In the summer of 2020, their collaboration suddenly halted by Covid-19, photographer Fazal Sheikh (born in 1965) and writer, educator and activist Terry Tempest Williams (born in 1955) found themselves 5,000 miles apart, Sheikh in Zurich, Switzerland, Tempest Williams in Castle Valley, Utah. Like so many others, they communicated across the days and nights by text and email, reflecting on the state of politics as the pandemic spread across the world.
Looking back over his work, Sheikh decided to make a gift for Tempest Williams as a gesture of friendship and respect in troubled times. He selected 30 images, one for each year of his life as an artist, corresponding to one complete cycle of the moon. Some weeks later, a package arrived in Zurich. Inside were 30 letters from Tempest Williams, each responding to a single image, written across 30 days, another lunar cycle.
Studying the images had led her to wider, more philosophical considerations of the ways they connected to contemporary events: climate change, the rise of Black Lives Matter, the advances of women and-the focus of her work with Sheikh-their alliance with Native Nations in the American southwest supporting Bear Ears National Monument and the protection of these sacred lands.
The spontaneous nature of the correspondence in the middle of the pandemic made it all the more immediate, and when images and words were placed together, both artists where surprised by the intimacy of what they created in isolation. They felt it could be an offering to others who shared their concerns and might find comfort in the exchanges. This book is the result of a friendship forged through art and their shared desire to collaborate on issues larger than themselves in a world broken and beautiful.
What can art tell us that facts cannot? – Terry Tempest Williams