Biennale of Contemporary Photography from the Arab World

by Claire Monneraye


The first biennale of contemporary photography from the Arab World is currently open in Paris (until 17 January 2016). A joint initiative of the Arab World Institute and the European House for Photography, this event provides audiences with a unique opportunity to experience the diversity and complexity of the Arab World as seen through the lens of a wide range of photographic artists from the region.

At the Institute of the Arab World, the exhibition features around 30 artists and is structured around themes such as Landscapes, Interiors, Identities, Memories and Stories. Broad enough to let the multiplicity of artists’ aesthetics and voices exist individually and to complement each other, these themes also offer stimulating perspectives on the complexity of the region without ignoring the greater (and more delicate) issues surrounding religion, war, resources, human and women rights. 

At the European House for Photography, a retrospective dedicated to Stéphane Couturier, spans 15 years of his work, which has focused on urban archeology and the evolution of urban landscapes, to end with his most recent series on housing project in Alger.

The exhibition also highlights the work of Italian photographer Massimo Berruti, whose series of black and white photographs concentrate on the water crisis in Gaza and the West Bank, while the French-Italian duo Andrea & Magda show a colourful series exploring the consequences of globalisation on the economy of Sinaï.

The work of French-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui investigates issues surrounding cultural diversity and migration in the Mediterranean region. Her series Les Marocains comprises life-sized portraits taken in her mobile photographic studio while traveling around Morocco, her country of origin. Inspired by Robert Franck’s The Americans and Richard Avedon’s In the American West, her approach, going beyond pure documentary photography, empowers the individuals from various ethnic and tribal groups while providing an incredibly rich visual perspective on the Moroccan traditions and aesthetics.

Update - 19 January 2016 - It was reported that Leila Alaoui, who was working on an assignment on women’s rights issues for Amnesty International has died as result of injuries sustained during the al-Qaeda attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Read article in the British Journal of Photography here.

On the subject, two books are very much worth looking at:

- Arab Photography Now, published by Kehrer Verlag, 2011 with texts by Michket Krifa and Rose Issa

- View From the Inside: Contemporary Arab Photography, Video and Mixed Media Art, published by Schilt Publishing, 2014 with texts by Karin Adrian von Roques, Samer Mohdad, Claude W. Sui, Mona Khazindar and an introduction by Wendy Watriss.







Farah Al Qasimi, Sandcastles, Dubai, 2014. © Farah Al Qasimi. Courtesy Third Line Gallery

Mustapha Azeroual, Radiance #2, 2013. © Mustapha Azeroual. Courtesy Galerie Binôme

Myriam Abdelaziz, Menya’s Kids, Egypt, 2013 . © Myriam Abdelaziz

Farah Al Qasimi, Sandcastles, Dubai, 2014. © Farah Al Qasimi. Courtesy Third Line Gallery

Yazan Khalili, 2’ | f7.1, Landscapes of Darkness, 2010. © Yazan Khalili. Courtesy Transit Gallery

Mouna Saboni, The fear, Egypt, 2015. © Mouna Saboni

Mohammed Lazare Djeddaoui, The ogre’s daughter, Syria, 2014. © the artist

Malik Nejmi, Fig. 1 / Fig. 2, 2013. © Malik Nejmi

Steve Sabella, 38 Days of Re-collection, Jerusalem, 2014. © Steve Sabella

Medhi Medacci, Untitled, 2013. © Medhi Medacci. Courtesy Galerie Odile Ouizeman, Paris

Stéphane Couturier, Alger, Bab-El-Oued n°2, 2013. © Stéphane Couturier. Courtesy Galerie Kornfeld

Massimo Berruti, from the series Gaza. Eau Miracle. © Massimo Berruti. Courtsy Agence VU. Prix AFD/Polka

Andrea&Magda, Taba, Sinai, Al Farah sea side resort, unfinished and left abandoned since 2007, 2014.

Leila Alaoui, from Les Marocains. © Leila Alaoui