The Exotic Other — From the Inside, Out

It's often all too easy to become enraptured by the "exotic other" that we discover when we travel to cultures that are new and strange to us. The same is true of photography. Capturing a "great" photo while on vacation or on assignment in a foreign land is almost always easier than making a similarly great photo in our own backyard.

Since its creation in 2007, the PhotoQuai photography biennial has been highlighting photography from all around the world that allows us to glimpse other cultures as seen by people who live there, not outsiders. The selection this year reflects the diversity of ways of viewing the non-European world today that is quite different from the clichés frequently propagated by tourist photography. The focus here is not on reflecting photographic production from a large number of countries but on highlighting artists and their own works, making no claims to exhaustiveness in terms of geographical coverage.

PhotoQuai's basic mission is to highlight and make publicly known non-Western artists whose work remains either unknown in France or rarely seen in Europe, to encourage the exchange of ideas and an interchange of perspectives of the world.

The 2013 selection, assembled under the slogan "Look at Me!", has a common denominator: all the photographic series are related to the human figure. Landscapes, objects, fashion or architecture appear in the form of elements that accompany the human being. In these selected works, the body that acts as the unit of measurement for our universe.

This "Look at Me!" theme also reverberates with the Western world's obsession with self-portraits or "selfies" uploaded incessantly to social networks — often unremarkable, banal photographs and endlessly updated profile photos, staged and constructed to look glamorous, privileged, above the ordinary. The photos in this exhibition from distant cultures certainly echo some of these same tendencies, but they have an exotic difference that in this case originates in those cultures from the inside. It's a unique view through the eyes and lenses of other lands and people, made by insiders, and offered on a world stage.

— Jim Casper


Editor's Note: The show will be running until November 17th, on the banks of the Seine at the Musee Quai Branly. If you're in Paris in the month of November, be sure to check it out!