Photopoetry as You Have Never Read/Seen Before: A Study of ʻAlāʼ ʻAbd al-Hādī’s Shagin [Sympathetici] (2003)

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 8-14-2022


Pairings of poetry and photographs date back to the nineteenth century. However, the name photopoetry, was first used in Photopoems: A Group of Interpretations through Photographs (1936), photographed and compiled by Constance Phillips. Michael Nott (2022) defines photopoetry as “a form of photo-text that takes, for its primary components, poetry and photography” (p. 1). Rather than using photos to illustrate poems or poems to describe photos, however, the poet-cum-artist ʻAlāʼ ʻAbd al-Hādī inextricably mixes photos and written texts to create a gap in signification that only the contemplating recipient can fill out. In Shagin [Sympathetici], the homo ludens ʻAbd al-Hādī mixes one text with more than one photo, and one photo with more than one text; in addition, his volume lacks pagination, and a table of contents, thus inviting the reader/ viewer to play his/ her own game, making connections between, and creating meaning from, text and image. The present study shows how different this volume, best described in Umberto Eco’s terms as an opera aperta that affords multiple interpretations, is from extant examples of photopoetry in terms of both form and content.