AN EPIPHANY OF FACES THE WORK OF LEILA ALAOUI
Leila Alaoui (1982–2016) was a Franco-Moroccan photographer and video artist. She worked as a commercial photographer for magazines and NGOs and in 2015, she completed a photographic assignment “Everyday Heroes of Syria”, in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, focusing on Syrians living in refugee settlements. The project was completed for the Danish Refugee Council, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office and ActionAid. The photographer tragically died aged 33 of a heart attack after being shot in terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso while on assignment. She was in Ouagadougou to work on a photography project for a women’s rights campaign called My Body My Rights for Amnesty International.
Her work appeared in publications including the New York Times and Vogue, and her photographs have been widely exhibited. She was probably best known for a series of portraits of Moroccan people, “Moroccans have the most complicated relationship to photography among Arabs because they are very apprehensive due to superstition. They are also tired of tourism, so there is a sort of rejection of the camera. My hope was to show traditional Moroccans without the folklore’, revealing the intrinsic beauty of the ‘Moroccan universe’ liberated from socio-historic conditioning.
Alaoui believed that photography could be used for social activism, and should be used for “reflecting and questioning society”. As a result, she chose to focus her work on social and national realities of cultural identity, migration and displacement. For her series, exhibited currently at Casa Arabe in Madrid, “ The Moroccans” , she travelled the country with her mobile photo studio to capture the cultural diversity of Morocco avoiding to produce “ picturesque” postcard images. The result, beautiful portraits that strongly express her fierce independence.