Stunning portrait series combats Islamophobia

Hanan, 24, NYU Dental student: “I have a pretty positive personality- my nickname is Happy Panda. I try not to think too much, because sometimes I have a tendency to do just that. I always tell everybody, there’s not just two parties [so] why don’t you break the system a little bit? So I’m going to vote for any other random person on the list and not just go for a Republican or Democrat, cause honestly they are both horrible people - one is fake and the other one is pretty ‘out there’ and blunt and his mind set is pretty bad… and hers is conniving. Sometimes I’m surprised at people, at who they’re voting for but I don’t push my views on anyone else.”

Photographer Mark Bennington’s new series entitled “America 2.0,” features the photos and stories of Muslim young adults in living New York City. According to a talk Bennington had with The Huffington Post, Bennington said, “these young people [in the photographs] are a crucial contingent of the next generation of American leaders ― and their stories need to be heard.”

Mosammet, 17, Brooklyn Tech High School: "We are a nation of immigrants. I do not accept someone who calls my fellow brothers and sisters of color 'murderers and thieves'. I do not accept someone who utilizes fear mongering to turn half the country against the rest. I will not stand my mother or my sisters being forced to remove their hijab and I will not stand my father and brother being called 'terrorists'. I LOVE LIFE, but as an American citizen, I have never been so disappointed in America." Photo/Mark Bennington

Mosammet, 17, Brooklyn Tech High School: “We are a nation of immigrants. I do not accept someone who calls my fellow brothers and sisters of color ‘murderers and thieves’. I do not accept someone who utilizes fear mongering to turn half the country against the rest. I will not stand my mother or my sisters being forced to remove their hijab and I will not stand my father and brother being called ‘terrorists’. I LOVE LIFE, but as an American citizen, I have never been so disappointed in America.”

Photo/Mark Bennington

“Now more than ever, we, as the American public, are faced with images and propaganda of ‘the other’ – be it Muslims, Mexican immigrants, the African-American community, the LGBTQ community, the list goes on,” Bennington told The Huffington Post in an email. “I found this to be a crucial time to start a project that focused on the everyday – what do ordinary lives and aspirations look like?”

Shahid & Hanzalah, 18 & 20, College students (Information Security & Android Development): “So, we met initially back in Brooklyn Tech High School at the MIST Club (Muslim Interscholastic Tournament- a state/ national level tournament where Muslim high school students compete in 40 different competitions ranging from debate and improv, to spoken word). We were talking about software engineering and complaining about teachers, term projects, etc. At first I was thinking, ‘Ahhh, a mini me! I’ll take him under my wing!’, but then the more we hung out, the more it became clear that I was usually the one who needed more  help between the two of us. Nowadays, Shahid is the kind of guy I’ll message at 2 am with some strange insomnia induced epiphany and he’ll take 2 seconds to tell me the massively obvious hole in my logic and tell me to go to sleep. I’m amazed we’ve known each other for so many years because in many ways it still feels like we only recently met- there’s a timelessness to it and honestly, it feels more like family." Photo/ Mark Bennington

Shahid & Hanzalah, 18 & 20, College students (Information Security & Android Development): “So, we met initially back in Brooklyn Tech High School at the MIST Club (Muslim Interscholastic Tournament- a state/ national level tournament where Muslim high school students compete in 40 different competitions ranging from debate and improv, to spoken word). We were talking about software engineering and complaining about teachers, term projects, etc. At first I was thinking, ‘Ahhh, a mini me! I’ll take him under my wing!’, but then the more we hung out, the more it became clear that I was usually the one who needed more help between the two of us. Nowadays, Shahid is the kind of guy I’ll message at 2 am with some strange insomnia induced epiphany and he’ll take 2 seconds to tell me the massively obvious hole in my logic and tell me to go to sleep. I’m amazed we’ve known each other for so many years because in many ways it still feels like we only recently met- there’s a timelessness to it and honestly, it feels more like family.”
Photo/ Mark Bennington

The series was shot from July to October asking each of his subjects questions about their daily lives—school, friends, dating and more—with the conversation inevitably turning to one of identity and the rhetoric of the political elections.

Helda, 29, full time student at Rutgers University majoring in Public Health and works full time as a Healthcare coordinator: “So you have Muslim religion and Muslim culture. The thing with our religion and culture is that they are so intertwined. People mistake a lot of culture things to be religious and they’re not. Photo/ Mark Bennington

Helda, 29, full time student at Rutgers University majoring in Public Health and works full time as a Healthcare coordinator: “So you have Muslim religion and Muslim culture. The thing with our religion and culture is that they are so intertwined. People mistake a lot of culture things to be religious and they’re not.” Photo/ Mark Bennington

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