When I first met Azim I could tell from his penetrating eyes and his solid stare that he’d seen more than the ordinary man. IMNYC spoke with Azim Nadir about his unique journey through himself when he was sent to prison for 71/2 years for a crime he says he did not commit. I spoke to Azim about his past and the changes he underwent as a person when he was forced into a place he says he didn’t belong. Long past are the days that Azim was bitter because of what the system had done to him. The anger with his pain is gone and you get the feel from his presence of a dignified, intelligent man who has centered his life in principles that maybe our society has not yet understood. Talking to Azim makes you appreciate life and the freedom, which we all take for granted. Is there rehabilitation of the human spirit after the physical has been broken down?

Today Azim Nadir is a photographer who has dedicated his life to capturing images that revolve around police brutality and injustices that occur in his community. The inspiration that has lead him to the camera comes from the fact that he has only mental recollection of his father and no pictures to remember him by and he wants his children to remember him and his work.

The reason why he photographs politically sensitive issues like police brutality is so that people understand what is happening in our communities today. He doesn’t want anyone to forget the victims and the families of those who suffer injustices at the hand of the State so he documents their sorrows with photos. Azim’s life after prison is making a difference. His moment of truth and realization came to him while he was locked up away from everyone, but himself. "I started developing myself, Azim says, you can hear his voice tremble, "re-scripting, I destroyed the old me and the concepts I used to live by. I began living the man that was deep inside under drugs, poverty and despair…had I not went to prison I’d be six feet under right now." One would think everyone should take such a journey in order to acquire some of the dignity, honor and integrity that Azim Nadir exudes, but I don’t think anyone of us would want to spend 7 _ years in prison. During our conversation about his internal struggle Azim and I also spoke about Nelson Mandella and Anwar Sadat and their similar experiences with prison and the mental fortitude that was necessary to survive. Azim was afraid of his inner darkness, the part that was difficult to stare at. In an 8X10 cell while in solitary confinement Azim could no longer hide from his true reflection. Azim revisited his motives, deeds and the consequences which followed during his darkest hours alone. At his Inauguration Nelson Mandella said, "It is not our darkness that most frightens us, it our light." In prison and specifically solitary confinement, Azim could not turn away from his darkness his explanation of the internal struggle which he underwent in order to maintain his sanity reminds me of what Joseph Campbell wrote about the inward journey "… at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light." "It was only then I became real to myself, says Azim, that I became a brother unto myself." Listening to Azim and his recollection of his journey brings me to what Anwar Sadat wrote in his Autobiography, " It was then that I drew, almost unconsciously, on the inner strength I had developed in Cell 54 of Cairo Central Prison – a strength, call it a talent or capacity, for change. I found that I faced a highly complex situation and that I couldn’t hope to change it until I had armed myself with the necessary psychological and intellectual capacity. My contemplation of life and human nature in that secluded place had taught me that he who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never therefore, make any progress." Azim Nadir is living breathing example of the triumph of the human spirit and the rebuilt principles he tries to live by today. Some of us would rather live out our lives in the predictable reoccurring designs we lay, and for those of you out there that do I am truly sorry, but I have no sympathy because great men like Azim Nadir, Nelson Mandella and Anwar Sadat overcame more than just themselves.


The following is my interpretation of Azim’s plight when he was in jail, in solitary confinement. The words and ideas are his, the placing and structure is mine, but these are his words I just jotted down while interviewing him for the article. Solitary

Boiling maze
Not unlike hell

Make it through
Abandon hope
Step by step
Trying to maintain
My family
I have to
Stay sane
Vicious mother fucker
On the go back
Programming me
I have to be
With steel for veins
If I want to see
Coldness pulling my mind
Going by slow
I’m where you don’t want to be
Of the loneliness
I need my wife
I want my life

Unending death
Is in here
I sleep with it
To pass time
Traveling through my
Magnetic concrete
Steel forces
My mind
From me
My mother
To find myself
I look inside
My soul
To find myself
Reverting back
To me
Self regained
Self lost




Azim Nadir

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