Scènes et Types
In the spring of 2011 I spent three and a half months in Morocco working with writer Sarah Dohrmann on a collaborative project about prostitution and the marginalization of women.
While in Morocco I began to work with collage, cutting up the photographs I was making and piecing them back together, layering and juxtaposing the images. I was spending time with and photographing women who were pushed to the edges of society – single mothers, divorcées, prostitutes. Many of these women did not feel safe having their faces photographed - some didn’t feel safe being photographed at all - but it was important for them to talk about their experiences. I began to use the collages as a way to protect the women’s identities (when necessary) while expressing what I understood about their lives and examining my own perceptions and experiences in the process.
Having worked for several years on long-term projects addressing the complicated and layered issues around prostitution, I had become frustrated with the limitations of straightforward documentary work or reportage. I felt compelled to take a more conceptual approach to exploring ideas around representation and perception, marginalization, sexuality, the idealization and/or demonization of women’s bodies and, specifically within the context of my work in Morocco, the legacy of colonization and the impact of Orientalist representations of North African women historically and currently. My goal with this work is to not only explore some of the perceptions and realities of women’s lives in Morocco, but to raise questions about the documentary process itself and the impact of visual imagery/representation on women’s relationships with power, choice and identity.
I titled this work Scènes et Types in reference to the colonial Orientalist postcards made primarily by French photographers in the early 1900’s. These postcards (often in series called Scènes et Types) featured staged portraits of nude or semi-nude North African women in highly exoticized postures, costumes and settings. It is documented that the models for these photographs were almost always prostitutes.
My collage work is comprised of photographs I made in Morocco in the spring of 2011.