Camera Illuminate - Arab Photography Post Arab Revolutions



Palabras clave:

Photography, agency, self-criticism, subjectivity, art, arab revolutions, fotografía, agencia, autocrítica, subjetividad, arte, revoluciones árabes


“Arab Photography” has often been associated with the oriental(ist) aesthetic, showcasing the Arab “subjects” to the West as ‘photographed’ rather than “photographer.” This focus has shifted ever since the Arab revolutions presented a stage for artists to express themselves through “revolutionary art.” Photography was a particularly interesting medium since it acts as a “double actant”; the photographer is a witness and, by documenting the unfolding events, he also becomes an agent of these events. In the post-revolutionary period, however, state censorship is evermore invasive, and photography was forced to take the role of a “civil” form of art in order to avoid censorship. This paper makes a case for photography as methodology and argues that it can inform us about the young Arab subjectivities in ways which other communication mediums cannot. Photography can be considered as a visual discourse on identity where the choice of photographic subject is telling of the ways in which Arab photographers deal with their social, political and physical environments. This medium lends itself to be a discursive practice due to the agency it allows as well as its inherent process of Othering. The agential aspect is done through a careful selection/filtering of experience and othering allows for an othering of the self which is fertile ground for self-criticism.


La “fotografía árabe” se ha asociado a menudo con la estética oriental(ista) que muestra a Occidente los “sujetos” árabes como “fotografiados” en lugar de “fotógrafos”. Este enfoque ha cambiado desde que las revoluciones árabes han propiciado un escenario para que los artistas pudiesen expresarse a través de un “arte revolucionario”. La fotografía ha sido un medio particularmente interesante, ya que actúa como un “doble actor”: el fotógrafo como testigo, al documentar los eventos que se desarrollan, también se convierte en un agente de estos eventos. Sin embargo, en el período postrevolucionario, la censura estatal se vuelve cada vez más invasiva, y la fotografía se ve obligada a asumir el papel de una forma de arte “civil” para evitarla. Este artículo aboga por la fotografía como metodología y argumenta que ésta puede informarnos sobre las más jóvenes subjetividades árabes como otros medios de comunicación no pueden hacer. La fotografía puede considerarse un discurso visual sobre la identidad en el que la elección del sujeto fotográfico explica las formas en que los fotógrafos árabes tratan sus entornos sociales, políticos y físicos. Este medio se presta para ser una práctica discursiva debido a la agencia que permite, así como a su proceso inherente de “Othering.” El aspecto agencial se realiza a través de una selección / filtrado cuidadoso de la experiencia, y el otro permite un intercambio del yo que es un terreno fértil para la autocrítica.



Biografía del autor/a

Alaa Badr, The European University Institute

PhD Researcher in the Social and Political department


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