clock menu more-arrow no yes

This project is like Humans of New York, but for racial profiling in Europe

In 2012, photojournalist Ed Kashi interviewed 36 immigrants who have experienced racial profiling in France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Kashi is known as one of the best photographers on Instagram (he has 157,000 followers), and it's where you can see some the portraits currently on exhibition in Paris in collaboration with the Open Society Foundation.

The subjects discussed the harassment they faced as immigrants of ethnic minority groups (click on them to read their full stories on Instagram):

Interview with Ed Kashi on the racial profiling series and storytelling on Instagram

"I can tell you about my first identity check as if it was yesterday – the exact route we took, why we went to the city center and the manner in which the police spoke to us...We are a generation that grew up in war, not a war involving bombs, but one with the police. It’s not normal. We can’t conceive of a future in which we marry, have a house and then have our children checked and go through the same things we have; it’s just not possible. It has to stop or it will lead to conflict." - Adil Kochman, 32, artist and filmmaker, Lille, France. Police #profiling in France, impacts immigrants and minorities who must contend with the stigma, legal pressures and exclusion from society these practices can cause. @opensocietyfoundations presents an exhibition of this work by @edkashi on view at la place de la République in #Paris June 6 – July 12. #egalitetrahie, #quoimagueule

A photo posted by Ed Kashi (@edkashi) on

Margarita Noriega:What was the most striking interview for you personally, if any?

Ed Kashi:There were so many, out of the 36 folks we interviewed in three countries. I must say the interview with Paul Mortimer in the UK. I have included his portrait and an excerpt from his interview. He was a professional footballer in the Premier League, married to a white woman with three daughters, and yet he would be harassed when driving or in town.

Paul Mortimer, former football (soccer) player of the Charlton Athletic Football Club.

Photograph courtesy of Ed Kashi

In Paul's own words, from Kashi's interview with him:

"My worst stop and search happened a few years ago…I was shopping with my wife. We'd just finished shopping, and we're back on our way to the underground car park, and as we were coming down the ramp, myself, my wife, I think one of my children was in a pram, and laden with shopping bags, we noticed a lot of people around…[the police] sprung into action and I was held against a wall with my hands behind my back, my wife was, my children were held. And loads of cars were screeching about, plainclothes policemen, or so they said they were, stopped us. And basically it was about a stolen gold credit card…I was accused of ‘looking shifty,’ when I was signing my credit card slip. Now, the word ‘shifty,’ I always know what that means, that tends to mean, you know, a black guy with a gold credit card."

"I understand that police have a job to do, and you know, they may have to stop people and search people, but there is a way of going about it. I felt, I felt like I needed a shower after. I felt really inadequate, I felt, I felt dirty, I did, I felt really bad."

Ed Kashi:From France I was most struck by the interview with Adji Ahoudian, 32, an elected official in Paris, who described what it was like to be accosted by the police while returning home from his election-night victory party, lying face down on the pavement, thinking to himself how absurd it was that he was now an elected official of the city of Paris but was at that moment face down on the ground being treated as a criminal by the police.

Margarita Noriega:Has Instagram allowed you to approach more serious topics with new audiences?

Ed Kashi:Instagram has given me a new platform to reach an audience virtually without filters or gatekeepers. I can advocate, inspire, and illuminate issues I care about, as well as raise awareness and funds for organizations that are involved in doing the good work of social and political change. At first it was a platform that served frivolity, but now it's a potent form of journalism and social activism.

Margarita Noriega: How has Instagram shaped how you use photography and social media?

Ed Kashi:Instagram is a special space for me as a visual artist. It's a place where I can play with imagery — making double exposures, working with post-production/darkroom tools — where I can be serious and publish photo essays and advocacy work, and where I can change people's minds about the issues of the day and create a two way forum for dialogue and debate at times. It’s also a space where I can promote projects and issues that are important to me. I am a photo publisher and can reach a growing audience. Simply put, it's a space that does not exist anywhere else in photography today.