Camera Illuminate. Arab Photography Post Arab Revolutions

  • Abstract:

    “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.