Shadows is the second project in a trilogy of works exploring the power and politics of an iconic single image and follows The Sound of Silence, 2006. In Shadows, Jaar employs a photograph by Dutch photojournalist Koen Wessing taken in Nicaragua at the height of the 1978 insurrection. The photograph, which Jaar has described as perhaps the "strongest expression of grief" he has ever seen, was taken in Estelí, Nicaragua during the final days of oppression by the Somoza regime. The image depicts the moment shortly after two women are told of their father’s death.
The structure of Shadows was inspired by Chili, September 1973, a photo-based book created by Wessing about that historic month in Chile. In this book, Wessing tells the story of the military coup in a sequence of images and without a single word. Wessing was one of the few international photographers to document the coup in Chile and the aftermath; in 1978 he went to Nicaragua and photographed the insurrection of the Sandinistas against Somoza. Viewers are guided through Shadows by the light of small sequential images that unravel the narrative. After walking through a dark corridor, the viewer is led to a central space in which an extraordinarily intense light emanates from a silhouetted image. This light illuminates and stuns the viewer, who becomes a participant in the action. Jaar’s choice to use the frame of a silhouette as a source of light intensifies the symbolic representation of grief and loss. As in many of Jaar’s works that explore the politics of images, Shadows engages the viewer to think of these two lives embodying many innocents who die in conflict or are oppressed.