Throughout life we are presented with endless examples of individuals and groups being excluded from communities based on their appearance, beliefs or actions. When this happens, there are always two sides: those who impose the standards—the decision makers, the “included”—and those they exclude.

Communication can be used to both connect and divide, evolve and regress, educate and destroy. Inclusion is, therefore, engaging someone in a dialogue, but not necessarily a verbal one.

In my photographic series, “Cast No Evil,” I invite the viewer to analyze their subjective perception of inclusion and exclusion and the threshold between the two. What are the perimeters that define them?

This series highlights the notion of the immediate duality that occurs in any given situation; each state is reliant on the other. In this case, understanding inclusion requires us to be critical of what it means to be excluded. This inquiry into duality extends to questioning the moment where the mysterious becomes apparent, restraint becomes freedom, the ‘below’ becomes the ‘above,’ and illusion becomes reality.

The characters in the portraits, called “—cludes,” are wrapped in layers of fabric that shield them from communing with anything beyond the material. The material evokes a question: what are the fabricated barriers in society that inhibit the incorporation of others?

What side of the fabric are we on, and can we be on both sides at once? When we exclude, does it come from the fear of being excluded ourselves? By remaining indifferent, and incommunicative, do we become like one of them, dehumanized? Or are we the ones enclosed, looking out at the illusive barrier we impose?

Who are the “included” and who are the “excluded?” How do we become secludes?

Does the material set a power dynamic? It certainly creates a boundary, but who holds the power? Them, in their anonymity, or us, for their confinement?

—Alia Ali

Editors’ Note: This project was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2016—don’t miss the work from all 50 of the outstanding, international talents!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like one of these previous features: People of Pattern, our last article about Ali’s work; an artist’s approach to externalizing internal feelings, expressed through delicate camouflage; and Losing Identity, dehumanizing portraits of strangers on the streets of Old Delhi.