Mectoub (2012 / 2016) Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2016
In 2012, while travelling in Morocco, I decided to photograph men. Following the Arab Spring, some of them are demonstrating for more individual freedom, seeking outlets to express who they are. For the next four years and over a seven country scouting in the Mediterranean basin, I produced a collection of portraits about the masculine; men’s bodies and sexuality of a young generation, deeply involved in the world’s transformation.
The series Mectoub was born. By revealing a new and complex image of the modern Arab man, my work shakes the viewer’s traditional perception of the subject’s representation and pushes him/her to engage into a new reflexion on the notions of identity, gender and power.
The first step of my working process is the encounter: to connect with strangers in the streets, taking the act of shooting pictures closer to a performance, in which I challenge myself as a more involved protagonist. This process gives the subjects an outlet to confide and unveil like they never had the chance to do before. As an artist, I position myself as a woman who looks at men, and in so doing, flip the convention of whose right it is to look, thereby affirming that the camera itself has a gender. These are portraits of men, taken by a woman - a woman who prompts them to abandon themselves, accepting this loss of control even though they are aware of its ambiguity. The struggle of the subject through this ambivalence creates a raw and unseen reality.
By considering bodies and geographies, my images question the fast changing concept of genders in many classes and cultures, and expose what’s usually covered up or misunderstood. I believe that our identity is not determined or static, but rather an ever evolving matter. These portraits, by tricking visual expectations, examine the on-going question of authenticity in photography: the ambivalence translates into a game, and reinforce the power of the art as a reinitializing tools, shifting dynamics and traditional powers’ rhetorics. I confront the patriarchal ways of thinking and more generally, mainstream subjectivity, by drawing attention to the relationship between photographers and their subjects, adding a new and positive set of eyes on discrimination’s history.
Through the political overthrowing of the “to see and to be seen”, I offer a singular look of a woman on men. My voice urges to broaden perspectives of representation in photography to rethink matters such as alterity, race, gender or nationality, beyond cultural and geographic conventions. My act becomes a transgression, as I channel the transgression of the men I shoot.