One of the most striking new bodies of work I’ve seen recently is a series of photographs made by the 30 year old photojournalist Jehad Nga. Taken in a Somalian café and lit only by a single shaft on sunlight, the images illuminate their subjects in the clandestine manner of Walker Evans’ subway pictures or Harry Callahan’s “Women Lost in Thought”.
Nga was born in Kansas, but moved soon after, first to Libya and then to London. In his early 20s he was living in Los Angeles and taking courses at UCLA, when he came across the book "Digital Diaries" by Natasha Merritt. The book, a collection of sexually intimate photos made with a digital point-and-shoot, convinced Nga that he could become a photographer. One year later he was traveling through the Middle East taking pictures.
After one of these pictures was published in The Village Voice he moved to New York where he enrolled in one course to become an emergency medical technician and a second course on photography sponsored by the Magnum photo agency. By early 2003 he was back in the Middle East shooting regularly for The New York Times.
The Somalia series was shown at the M+B Gallery in Los Angeles last year and will be featured in the Red Room at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York this summer. Look out for these sumptuously large and colorful prints.