If the shortest distance between each of us is a story, in a world of parallel lives and intersecting realities, we can become better acquainted if we actively share stories. The familiarity that is born through shared narratives opens up the possibility of collectively tending to each other and to the world.
The Arab Documentary Photography Program* was established in 2014 to lend support and mentorship to Arab photographers and amplify compelling non-stereotypical and unconventional visual documentation of important social issues and narratives relevant to the region.
Five years on, what sets apart the work of the emerging photographers and visual artists of this program is that they are not just witnesses to the stories and events unfolding around them, they are also active participants. Members of the generations that have come of age post 2001, they explore subjects that are relevant to their own lives.
For this exhibition we’ve chosen to highlight work made by Zied Ben Romdhane from Tunisia, Nadia Bsieso from Jordan, Hicham Gardaf from Morocco, Elsie Haddad from Lebanon, Omar Imam from Syria, Heba Khalifa, and Mohamed Mahdy, both from Egypt. They employ a diversity of styles, appropriate for addressing the complexities of the vast and heterogeneous region.
These are stories of war and forced displacement, of gender violence, of the psychological effects of incarceration and re-entry, of declining health indicators, labour exploitation and perpetual poverty, of the mishandling of important natural resources, and of unchecked urban growth. Each photographer refuses an oversimplification in their documentation. Instead, they choose to put themselves on the same plane as their subjects, which they do in different ways, seeing their subjects not as victims but as witnesses, testifying to a shared reality.
While the intention of these photographers and visual artists is not to provide us with answers, what they do achieve through their work is to help us frame the right questions. We hope that this type of visual storytelling inspires a vocabulary that helps shorten the distance between us, reinforcing the trust and confidence so essential to building a future that is less exploitative, less violent, more respectful of the soul and of the natural world in which we are temporarily leasing space.
Curated by Jessica Murray for Concrete at Alserkal Avenue.
*The Arab Documentary Photography Program (ADPP) is an initiative of The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) and Prince Claus Fund in partnership with Magnum Foundation. http://arabdocphotography.org