Vibrant portraiture set inside a world of bold colors, varied textures, and frenzied patterns commands attention in VOGUE, The Arab Issue. Hassan Hajjaj’s photography challenges the viewer through an eclectic confrontation of styles, and invites them to re-examine cultural stereotypes and cliches. Alive on Fotografiska New York’s third floor, this immersive exhibition brings together five important series developed over the past three decades.
Hassan Hajjaj is a British-Moroccan photographer and multidisciplinary artist with a diverse practice including portraiture, installation, performance, fashion and furniture design. He is entirely self-taught and embraces a melting pot of influences in his work - from popular culture and street style to hip-hop and haute couture.
VOGUE, The Arab Issue, w as inspired in the 1990s while Hajjaj was assisting his stylist friend on a fashion shoot in Marrakech. He says -
I sat there and realized all these people were from Europe – stylists, photographers, fashion designers, makeup artists – using Morocco simply as a backdrop, which frustrated me but also made me think. Rather than just using the country as the prop, I wanted to make it look grand. I wanted to take the Moroccan clothes and the people and shoot them in this celebratory way.
For his shoot, he asked local women to pose wearing his creations – traditional Moroccan djellabas, hijabs, caftans and babouches covered with candy-coloured polka dots, leopard prints or counterfeit brand logos – in the streets of the Medina, often parodying the poses typical of Western models. The photographs are dated with two different years, one from the Western calendar (such as 2000), followed by one from the Islamic calendar (1421).
The title VOGUE, The Arab Issue evokes a double meaning – the word “issue” refers not only to a copy of the monthly magazine, but also to an important topic or problem for debate or discussion, one he also probes in his video Naabz and the series Hijabs and Handpainted Portraits.
This exhibition is presented
in collaboration with Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris.