Eken Magazine





Internationally acclaimed photographer, Sal Idriss, presents his interesting project Famous For The Wrong Reasons, a photographic exhibition created with young people from across London’s boroughs, which depicts the experiences of families affected by losing a teenage family member to gun and knife crime. It movingly shows the families on their own terms, with the aim that they are perceived not as names, numbers or headlines that disappear, but as people who are coping with this loss, pain and immense sadness, every day. The project emerged as a result of personal tragedy to Sal and his family. On 27 December 2007, Sal’s youngest brother Nassirudeen Isa-Osawe was stabbed to death in Islington (North London) in an unprovoked attack. He was just 16. The experience drew Sal’s attention to other families throughout London who had experienced the devastating loss of a loved one through knife or gun crime. This eye-opening exhibition displays an array of photographic portraits representing families who have lost teenagers to violent crime. Sal has just came back from his latest Famous For The Wrong Reasons exhibition in Rome.

STEPNIEWSKA FAMILY - FFTWR - 008 - Famous For The Wrong Reasons Photo By Sal Idriss

Stepniewska Family


Lewis Family

Fame, as ‘the state of being known by many people’, is nowadays more ephemeral than ever. Since the well-known sentence credited to Andy Warhol: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” things have changed but still the media are responsible of the way they are presenting people and events. On 27th of December 2007, the young Nassirudeen, only 16 years old, was stabbed to dead by another young boy in Islington area, London. Nassirudeen wasn’t in any gang; it was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. A silly fight he was not looking for became a tragedy. A heartbreak event that has involved families, friends and society itself. In the days after the tragedy, newspapers and websites, told the facts. Nassirudeen and his story became known by many people, but unfortunately for a wrong reason. Only in 2007, Nassirudeen happened to be the 27th victim of knife or gun crime in London. In 2008, 29 youngsters were killed, in 2009 were 14 and in the following years the number is over 10 youngster killed each year. Stories of gangs and knife crime are still featuring regularly in headlines on newspapers and websites. Some of those sites are reporting and mapping locations and victims in London and UK. It is easy to find lists and photos of the victims. Nassirudeen was Sal Idriss’s youngest brother. After that afternoon of 27th December 2007, the Idriss family went through a personal path of distress while the media were telling stories not always true.

Sal Idriss, internationally acclaimed photographer, decided to give a ‘face’ to the families that share similar stories with him of loss and to build a project that some how could educate other youngster in danger. This is how Famous for the Wrong Reasons was born. Idriss got in touch with some of the families who had witnessed the devastating loss of their beloved child and took their photographic portrait on the place where their child was killed. A bunch of flowers sits next to family, where once there was their beloved one. This is not an easy step to take for the families but as Idriss states: “Going back there is a way to overcome the trauma of the loss”. This project is also a way to fight the process where youngster are joining gangs with the idea of becoming famous, powerful and popular amongst their peers. The reality shows, with its cruelty, how this fake feeling of power will fall in value against the violent loss of another human being. I truly believe in the strong influence of this project that by using the photography image will illustrate the risks and the results of carrying guns and knives. Besides those ‘anonymous’ families name on the newspapers will show their face and their story. Famous for the Wrong Reasons was held in Rome from the 5th April to the 2nd May at WSP Photography, in collaboration with British Council Rome. The exhibition presented 12 portraits of some of the families participating to the project, now open to the rest of Europe. In the evening of the opening, WSP Photography hosted a talk with Sal Idriss (Photographer), Alessandra Migani (Curator), Alison Driver (Arts Manager, British Council), George Ebai (Human Rights Advocate) and the projection of a video interview to the families.


Lawrence FAMILY - FFTWR 002 - Famous For The Wrong Reasons Photo By Sal Idriss

Lawrence Family

Sal Idriss
was born in Kumasi (Ghana) in 1970. Then moved to London when he was 15 years old. He now lives between London, Sweden and Paris. Sal Idriss studied photography at the London Institute in England. He has been previously commissioned by Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili, the fashion house Comme Des Garcons, David Adjaye of the Adjaye Association and music record labels Polydor and Sony to name but a few. His work has been featured on the covers of Blues & Soul magazine, the Guardian, The Times, the Mirror, GQ, Mojo, Scotland on Sunday and ES magazine. Sal’s photographs can be found in the extensive collection at the National Portrait Gallery, London. He currently has 21 images in the permanent collection from his continuing project ‘f2.8 at 15thportfolio. Sal has also exhibited his work at the Fitzwilliam Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, Greater London Authority and City Hall. Most recently he has exhibited at the group exhibition “7ème Bamako Biennale 7e Re-encounters Africans Photography” in Mali, Germany (Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg), Morocco (Fez) and Spain (Barcelona).

Alessandra Migani was born in Rome (Italy) in 1972. She has a professional experience as independent Curator and Art writer. In 2002 she started a long collaboration with the festival Enzimi in Rome. In 2003 she moved to London where she attended an internship at onedotzero. In 2006 she curated the presentation of Enzimi at ICI in London. She also published her first articles for Digimag. She attended the course ‘Become an Independent Curator’ at the Central Saint Martins in London (2008). Her new research looks into the problematic of identity within art forms such as photography, video art and site-specific installation. Alessandra worked with artists: Sal Idriss, César Baracca, Marco Bolognesi e Raimi Gbadomosi; and wrote a text for Zak Ové. She collaborated to the creation and launch of a new art magazine in London: Rooms art uncovered (2010). She currently lives in Rome where she was running a gallery space, Contemporanea, for about a year. Her latest exhibition is Famous for the Wrong Reasons by photographer Sal Idriss, in collaboration with British Council. She is the art correspondent in Rome for Artefacto (online art magazine of Aculco Radio) and curates her own blog, Honey in the coffee. Alessandra is growing an interest in Art of the Contemporary African Diaspora.

By Alessandra Migani

Sal Idriss Website
Alessandra Migani Blog