Prisoner: Amanatullah Ali | Subject: Abdul Razzaq, BrotherAsim Rafiqui—NOOR
Prisoner: Amanatullah AliSubject: Ameena Ali, Wife
Prisoner: Amanatullah AliSubject: Zaid Amanatullah, Son
Prisoner: Amanatullah AliSubject: Zulfiqar Ali, Brother
Prisoner: Paizoo KhanSubject: Khatima, Daughter
Prisoner: Paizoo KhanSubject: Mohammad Islam, Brother
Prisoner: Paizoo KhanSubject: Sharafatullah, Son
Prisoner: Hamidullah Khan
Prisoner: Hamidullah KhanSubject: Mother
CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - APRIL 2013: General vision of Vistahermosa Prison. An elevated water tank with the name of the carro "Galaxticos" illuminates the jail overnight and reminds all who are in charge. In the left, a mural with the chief of the prison, the inmate Wilmer Brizuela. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - APRIL 2013: "La guerrilla". This is the name of this area of the prison. It is a section of excluded inmates, normally due his drug addiction. This is the prison population which is living in extreme conditions. Those who break the codes of coexistence are confined to this site. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - APRIL 2013: Prisoners preparing pipes used to smoke crack, an addictive and devasting drug derived from cocaine. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - APRIL 2013: Inmates sleeping in "La guerrilla". This is the name of this area of the prison. It is a section of excluded inmates, normally due his drug addiction. This is the prison population which is living in extreme conditions. Those who break the codes of coexistence are confined to this site. The Vistahermosa prison with a capacity for 650 inmates and currently imprisoned more than 1500 inmates. The 30 Venezuelan prisons have a capacity for 14.500 prisioners but officially there are 44.420 prisoners, so the prisons are 300 percent overcrowded (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
VISTAHERMOSA PRISON, CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - MARCH 2013: A member of the "carro" doing a routine check in the prison with an war weapon AK47. The "carro" is the name of the group of inmates who have the control of the prison. The government only have the control over 7 of the 30 prisons existing in Venezuela. The power and the security are under the prison leaders, called "pran" or principal. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
VISTAHERMOSA PRISON, CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - MARCH 2013: Lots of family visitors during a celebration inside the prison. In September 2008 family overnights were instituted  as part of the Prison Humanization Plan, thereby sought to reduce conflict in the prisons and restore inmates rights. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - APRIL 2013: Inmates dancing with girls. During the weekend visits the inmates have the opportunity to meet their families but also it´s the chance to meet and dance with some girls. In the background an armed member of the "carro" checking that everything runs normally. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
VISTAHERMOSA PRISON, CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - APRIL 2013: Inmates sleeping in the rooftop pf the prision. The Vistahermosa prison with a capacity for 650 inmates and currently imprisoned more than 1500 inmates. The 30 Venezuelan prisons have a capacity for 14.500 prisioners but officially there are 44.420 prisoners, so the prisons are 300 percent overcrowded (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - APRIL 2013: Prisoners making a blood strike on the roof tops of the prison requesting their transport to the capital of the country, Caracas. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA - APRIL 2013: Ezekiel, alias "Maritza", posing in his cell, his dream to leave the prison and to be a model star. In Vistahermosa prison there is a gay pavilion separated from the rest of the prison population. There they have their rights respected, but they are not allowed to cross to the other side of the prison. The gays are dedicated to do the prisoners laundry. Ezekiel alias "Maritza" who dreams of being a model when leaving gave us their best pose. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
Prisoner: Amanatullah Ali | Subject: Abdul Razzaq, Brother
Asim Rafiqui—NOOR
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NOOR Welcomes Sebastian Liste and Asim Rafiqui

Jul 01, 2014

The Netherlands-based photo collective, NOOR, recently welcomed two photographers -- Sebastian Liste and Asim Rafiqui -- to its roster, signaling a desire to add fresh coverage on a range of under-reported local issues, from South America to Pakistan, India and across Africa.

The two new associate members join NOOR's 10 current photographers: Nina Berman, Pep Bonet, Andrea Bruce, Alixandra Fazzina, Stanley Greene, Yuri Kozyrev, Benedicte Kurzen, Kadir van Lohuizen, Jon Lowenstein and Francesco Zizola.

Liste, a Spanish photographer and recent TIME contributor who divides his time between his home country and Brazil, joins from the Reportage by Getty Images agency, where he spent the last three years. But Liste’s relationship with NOOR (a word that means "light" in Arabic) started four years ago when he first met Pep Bonet, one of the agency’s founding members. “I had just started working on my Urban Quilombo project and he was very passionate about it. He helped a lot with edits and he advised me.” The following year, he met another NOOR member – Francesco Zizola – who, he says, also took a particular interest in the work.

Sebastian Liste—NOOR 

“Every year, they’d tell me they wanted me at NOOR, but I didn’t feel ready,” the 29-year-old explains. “I didn’t have the experience, and I didn’t feel I could add something to the agency. I needed a period of time to understand what’s going on in the industry, how it’s changing.”

Last month, NOOR tried again. “They wrote me these amazing letters, asking me to join. And I just thought: ‘Why not? Maybe now is the right time.’”

For Liste, joining NOOR is about finding a structure where he can develop his life-long projects. “The most important thing for me is not how to make money but, instead, how to approach long-term projects,” Liste tells TIME. “I wanted to work with a small community of photographers. I needed a place that trusted my work and did something about it. NOOR is a place where you can put all of your energy and be part of a group where you can grow your ideas. I can’t think of many collectives and agencies that can do that.”

While Liste’s approach to photography is similar to many of NOOR’s members, Asim Rafiqui’s isn’t. For the past eight years, the 48-year-old Pakistani photographer has worked on the fringes of traditional photojournalism.

“I’ve been pursuing very personal projects,” he tells TIME. “I’ve worked with different publications, but that’s never been my focus. My goal has always been to create complex work.” For example, in The Idea of India, Rafiqui challenged notions that Hindus, Muslims and Christians are “oppositional groups, irreconcilably pitted against one another,” he writes on his website. “India’s actual, lived experiences suggests a long history of religious exchange and accommodation and a resistance to ideologies that impose a uniform, high culture on a society where once nearly all its people lived a vernacular culture.”

For Rafiqui, journalists and photographers have a responsibility to combat these stereotypes, especially when they approach projects in Africa and Asia. “My struggle has been to argue and explain that history is not a series of breaks – [but instead that] history continues,” he says. “We are living through the post-colonial era and we retain many of these colonialist and Orientalist cultures within our own countries.”

For example, on his blog, The Spinning Head, Rafiqui has been particularly critical of Western NGOs, which, he tells TIME, still employ colonialist arguments and philosophies. “In the last decades of colonialism, [when new nations were born] the discourse very much became about saving the natives from their backwardness – that they weren’t ready, that they needed help. It was all about humanitarianism. I think that we don’t understand where a lot of today’s discourses come from and the politics behind them, and I try to speak against the language NGOs use today.”

When photographers work closely with NGOs, Rafiqui explains, they have to take into consideration the historical and political baggage these organisations bring with them. Instead, photographers should allow for the political, social and economic histories of the nations they visit to come to light. “In these countries, there are local actors, but I repeatedly find that these voices, these characters are removed [from photographers’ stories],” he says. “It’s about realizing that you are arriving, living and breathing in complex worlds. It’s about taking the time to get involved in these worlds, instead of simply claiming that you’re going to save them because they can’t save themselves.”

Rafiqui also argues that mainstream photojournalism is European- and American-centric. “It remains the most influential space because what appears at World Press Photo or in TIME influences tens of thousands of photographers across the globe,” which leads, for example, to South Asian photographers repeating -- in terms of aesthetics and narrative construction -- the same stories they see in the Western media. “There are other voices and perspectives that are missing from the debate,” Rafiqui asserts.

“At NOOR, there are people who already think like that,” Rafiqui adds, “and I think [by selecting me] they are trying to highlight this. But I don’t want to make them speak like me. Instead, I can maybe challenge them with a perspective that they might not be able to get from someone else. I also want to be pushed by a very intelligent group of people who have very different ways of working and very different ideologies.”

Sebastián Liste is a Brazil-based photographer represented by Noor. In September 2012, he received the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography and the City of Perpignan Rémi Ochlik Award. LightBox previously published Liste’s work documenting the community living in an abandoned chocolate factory and Brazil's love for football ahead of the 2014 World Cup. Follow him on Twitter @SebastianListe.

Asim Rafiqui is a Pakistani photographer represented by Noor. He's currently based in Kigali, Rwanda, and regularly writes on his blog, The Spinning Head.

Noor is an Amsterdam-based collective of photojournalists and documentary photographers.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

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