art of resistance, Morocco

Harry Gruyaert | Morocco.

par43959//all images  © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos//

Just last year, a first English language monograph of Harry Gruyaert’s work was published. Gruyaert is a famous Magnum photographer, and for the last four decades he has managed to surprise the world of photography.

His work is never about stereotypical exoticism, and he treats all of his subjects and all of the countries he wanders around with his camera the same way.

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I like all of his work, especially the photos taken in Morocco between 1976 and 1988. Throughout most of those years Gruyaert worked out of a Volkswagen Kombi van, travelling from one place to the next, his cameras and equipment thrown in the back.

MOROCCO. Marrakech. In the medina (old district). 1981.

The way Gruyaert uses light, shapes and colors, transforms ordinary moments into art. The people in his photos get to keep their mystery, and that is a rare magic.

MOROCCO. Rif. Chechaouen. 1987. Street life in the Rif mountains. Walls are often painted in blue and white.

In an interview with the British Journal of Photography, Gruyaert said that he was always “interested in all the elements: the decor and the lighting and all the cars: the details were as important as humans”.

He captures people, but he also captures time, details, surroundings, context… It’s about humans being a part of, and not a whole.

MOROCCO. Essaouira. Ramparts & fortified walls of the city. 1976.

“It’s purely intuition. There’s no concept. Things attract me and it works both ways. I’m fascinated by the miracle where things come together in a way where things make sense to me, so there’s very little thinking”, Gruyaert explains.

To me, Gruyaert’s work is a wonderful way of taking in and capturing life, the way it is. He once said he discovered how to see – that might be the best way to describe what he does.

par44624//all images  © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos//

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For more on Gruyaert and his work, go to his Magnum profile.

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art of resistance, Egypt

Scarlett Coten | Still Alive.

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Scarlett Coten is an independent French photographer who dedicates herself essentially to personal, long term projects. The Arab countries are at the heart of her photographic practice, which explores the themes of identity and intimacy.

One of her wonderful projects is Still Alive, a plunge into the little known Egypt of the Bedouins. From spring 2000 to the summer of 2002, Coten shared the day-to-day life of the men and women who live in the Sinai desert, between the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez, from Rafah to the shores of the Red Sea.

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Coten describes her experience: “I photograph my hosts, those that ask me to, those that pose. These are my guiding line. Gestures and laughter replace the spoken word. Time seems different, the people too.

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It’s a hot summer. From one area of shade to another, we reach for each breath of air, each lift of the breeze. I no longer know which day it is; we live in the present.

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In an interview with Culturist, Coten says how she fell in love with “the cheerful and curious people, who consent to pose for me, and do so with delight.” She explains how she’s greeted with still alive! at every meeting.

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These photographs are the illustration of the humour, enthusiasm, vibrance, diversity and modernity of a people little-known to the world beyond their desert. They are forgotten, destitute but – still alive! And they find so much pleasure in that – in being alive.

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To find out more about this lovely project and see more of Coten’s wonderful photography, visit her official website.

//all photos © Scarlett Coten//

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art of resistance, Iran

Time Travel Booth: Iran In 1967.

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The following photos were taken by Mehdi Mahboubian, Iranian scholar, art dealer, collector and lover of Persian culture.  He took them in 1967, on a trip from Tehran to Shiraz.

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His son Kourosh Mahboubian explains how his father took these photos because he wanted a record of the sights, people, and way of life he loved so much.  From the kabab man to the bazaris, to the washer woman, he captured everyday scenes in the life of every Iranian.

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Mahboubian writes: “At that time, Iranian society had reached a crossroads between the magic of its ancient culture and the forces of modernization. The country was happy and prosperous for a while, though change, for good or bad, would become inevitable.”

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//all photos © Mehdi Mahboubian//

You can see more photos and read the full story here.

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Previous Time Travel Booths:

Afghanistan by Paolo Woods

Middle East by Inge Morath

70’s and 80’s Sudan by Abbas Habiballa

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art of resistance, Turkey

The Last Dance of Tarlabasi.

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This week, Istanbul on my mind. So much change in the last couple of years. In Istanbul, in Turkey, in countries around Turkey. A terrifying game of dominos, it seems.

I thought about Rena Effendi’s work The Last Dance of Tarlabasidone in 2011. It makes me nostalgic because that is when and where I first time fell in love with Istanbul.  With Effendi’s great work, Tarlabasi and its magic remain captured in time.

In spite of its run-down looks and reputation for widespread crime, Tarlabasi was a culturally vibrant neighborhood kaleidoscope – populated by Kurdish migrant workers from Anatolia, Roma gypsies, Greeks and African immigrants – from devout Muslims to trans-gender sex workers.

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But a big change happened – in 2011, Beyoglu municipality began a series of forced evictions – following the government’s plan for city “beautification”. Effendi described how as a result of this urban development initiative, many of the current Tarlabasi residents were being “bought out” and ordered to leave, as their homes are demolished to accommodate the construction of upscale residences.

Entire building blocks in Tarlabasi have been sold off to private companies, transforming the streets into ghostly barracks, pending reconstruction. Many of the neighborhood’s residents, their faces and lifestyles did not fit in with the new, “modern”, mandated look of Tarlabasi.

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Last Dance of Tarlabasi is a visual tale of this neighborhood and the way it struggled to survive the ruthless pace of Istanbul’s urban change.

All of this is captured very well in a sentence told by Ali Ber, a 45-year-old Kurdish migrant from Mardin. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years; all my children grew up here. Why should I leave? If they want to make Tarlabasi better, why can’t I be part of it?”, Ber asked.

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How is the story of Tarlabasi revelant today, five years later? How is it relevant after the recent terrorist attacks in Instabul?

It is relevant because it shows what today’s world values, what capitalism values. Most of the people are getting eaten by the machine of capitalism, we are being crushed and squeezed, with very little place to breathe, to live decent lives.

We live in a time of crisis that cannot be fixed within the capitalist framework. Creating more and more fear is the method that is being used  – since most of the world’s leaders and politicians don’t seem to care for (long-term) solutions.

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People being pushed out of their homes, people dying in terrorist attacks, people being forced to work for way less than a minimum wage (it is slavery, so call it slavery), people jumping off bridges because they can’t pay the rent, people begging on streets, people selling kidneys to pay for their children’s education, people who dare to cross the sea in boats that look like walnut shells because there’s no safe ground for them, people who still don’t know where their children (their bodies) are because they happened to be at a wrong corner, at a wrong time, with wrong skin on their bodies and wrong language coming out of their mouth, people who live and die each day to see what wars (war on terror, war on drugs, war on war) look like on the ground, in reality – all of these people are the victims, and all of their stories are connected.

We are being forced to see these problems in a deeply fragmented way (which is exactly how the ruling classes of our time want us to see it),  but we need to move beyond fragments and see how things are connected, how we are connected.

And when you think about things that way, it is easy to realize that we are all (well, 99 percent of us at least) dancing the last dance of Tarlabasi.

//all photos © Rena Effendi//

For more on Effendi and her work, go to her official website.

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art of resistance, Sudan

Ahmad Abushakeema: A Thousand Portraits From Sudan.

tumblr_o5uwd6vyhe1uw89o0o1_1280//all photos © Ahmad Abushakeema//

Photographer Ahmad Abushakeema saw Sudan’s “diversity in ethnicities, tribes, religions and backgrounds” but he also saw the lack of documenting it. He thought of using his skills to show this diversity and is now taking one thousand photos to portray his country and its people.

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Abushakeema’s ongoing project was created to portray a thousand different faces from Sudan in an artistic attempt to tell the tale of a nation that’s made of various ethnics and backgrounds. Be sure to see more about it here.

//all photos © Ahmad Abushakeema//

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art of resistance, Yemen

Yemen: Still Moving, Still Standing Still.

72/Aden, Yemen. image © Josef Hoflehner/

A week ago, Human Rights Watch released a statement calling on participants to the Yemen peace talks to “support international investigations, transitional justice, and victim compensation as key elements of any agreement.”

HRW warned that the armed conflict in Yemen has been characterized by numerous violations of the laws of war by all sides, which have not been investigated nor have resulted in any redress for victims of unlawful attacks.

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“The Saudi Arabia-led coalition of nine Arab countries has carried out indiscriminate airstrikes against residential neighborhoods, markets, and other civilian structures causing several hundred civilian casualties. Ansar Allah, the northern group, also known as the Houthis, and other armed groups on both sides have committed various abuses in ground operations. Although a ceasefire was announced on April 10, fighting has continued across Yemen”, HRW report says.

Human Rights Watch has documented new coalition airstrikes that appear to be unlawful. Six attacks in and around the capital, Sanaa, in January and February, killed 28 civilians, including 12 children, and wounded at least 13 others.

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In the past year, Human Rights Watch has documented 43 airstrikes, some of which may amount to war crimes, which have killed more than 670 civilians, as well as 15 attacks involving internationally banned cluster munitions.

The HRW report comes as MSF decided to withdraw from the World Humanitarian Summit due to a lack of confidence that the summit will address weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response in conflict zones including Yemen and Syria.

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HRW is unaware of any investigations by Saudi Arabia or other members of the coalition into allegedly unlawful attacks or abuses, or of any compensation for victims. In their public statements, none of the participants in the talks has indicated a need to include accountability or redress in the peace process.

Just two days ago, a number of outlets including Al Arabiya and Press TV, reported that direct peace talks were indefinitely postponed after the Hadi government withdrew due to a “lack of progress”. Meanwhile, the Houthis accuse the coalition of launching new airstrikes that killed seven people in Nihm.

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Couple of weeks ago, I posted the interview Status Hour did with Safa al Ahmad, freelance journalist and filmmaker who has been reporting on Yemen  since 2010. In case you haven’t done it yet – do listen to Ahmad, she is one of the few reporters able to talk about the complexity of the situation on the ground in Yemen today.

Throughout this post, I included photos from the great Austrian photographer Josef Hoflehner, most of them taken in Yemen in 2005.

I chose the photos that (to me) depict a state of waiting, of moving (and wanting to move) and standing still at the same time. I think that is the state most Yemenis find themselves in these days.

joseph//all photos © Josef Hoflehner//

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