Photography and photographic imagery, while a great tool to portray and communicate events and emotion, can also be a tool of misinformation. Particularly in the Middle East, where most image-making centers around conflict and humanitarian disaster, debunking preconceived assumptions and myths is extremely important. The Middle East has always been more than conflict and disaster, and these three photographers bring a new eye to the region and its diaspora.
Yemeni photographer Boushra Almutawakel’s work concerns the international perception of Arabs and Muslims, focusing in particular on the international perception of issues of gender and representations of Muslim/Arab women and their clothing. Throughout her career, Almutawakel has created artist spaces in Yemen and worked to expand cultural affairs in the country. In addition, she has organized a series of events about Yemen in the DC area. Her work has been acquired by the British Museum in London and has been published in numerous magazines and websites.
Untitled from the “Hijab” series (2001)
‘What if’, 2008
From the “Fulla” Series, ongoing. The Fulla doll is an Islamic alternative to the Mattel Barbie franchise.
Known as “the Andy Warhol of Marrakech”, Hassan Hajjaj is a contemporary Moroccan artist known for his photography, printed fabrics, and films. Meant to conflate Western perceptions of Arabic society, Hajjaj uses the language of fashion photography, to produce portraits of figures dressed in colorful North African garb. Set within frames of consumer products, including Coca-Cola and Louis Vuitton, the artist’s images recontextualize both fine art photography and popular culture. In reference to his images in Morocco, Hajjaj has said, “I wanted to show the world what I saw of the country and its people – the energy, the attitude; the inventiveness and glamour of street fashion; the fantastic graphics on everyday objects and products; people’s happy outlook and strength of character.”
More on Hassan:
Morocco a-go-go: the eye-popping visions of Hassan Hajjaj – in pictures (The Guardian, 2019)
Alo Wala, 2015
“Untitled” from the series “Handprints”, 2006
Kesh Angels, 2010