Beauty starts from within: Khoula Hamad's work speaks untold truths
Lebanese visual artist Khoula Hamad, currently a student at the Fine Arts and Design College at the University of Sharjah, was one of eight prize winners selected for The Art of Color Dior Photography Award for Emerging Talents. Here, her work speaks unto
InpartnershipwiththeÉcoleNationaleSupérieire de la Photographie, Arles, Khoula Hamad was chosen to be part of the first edition of the new Dior Photo Award for Emerging Talents, created to highlight young visual artists from the best international art and photography schools in the world.
The jury president, German photographer Peter Lindbergh, famed for his cinematic images and iconic nineties supermodel shots, selected eight students from 40 entrants with his jury members, Maja Hoffman, president and founder of Luma Arles, Simon Baker, director of the Maison Européene de la Photographie and Claude Martinez, president and CEO of Christian Dior Parfums.
As part of the photography prize, Khoula attended the opening of the Dior, The Art Of Color exhibition in Arles, where her work was shown alongside the other prize winners: Yoonkyung Jang, from Chungang University in Seoul, Hélène Bellenger, from École Nationale Supérieure de Photographie in Arles, Julien Tucker, from the International Center of Photography in New York, Yuan Wang, from the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, Mai Sakurai, from Tokyo University of Fine Arts, Weqingao Lei, from the Royal College of Art in London and Sofiya Pankevich, from Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography.
The prompt for the competition was to produce a carte blanche work on the theme of 'Woman-Women' Faces around the words: colour, femininity and beauty. Khoula interpreted this brief in a series of images capturing the actions that punctuate a woman’s day by making their faces disappear in order to focus on their inner beauty. Khoula explains: “The aim was to show the beauty of the female with no restrictions on the features of her face. However, my focus is on the beauty of the actions in her daily life.”
Simon explained that “technologically, photography is changing.” We asked him what elements make a photographer a great one and he said: “We look for a raw aesthetic and look for a story within the images, to get a sense of what the images are communicating, and if they are communicating well.” In an age where photography and fashion photography in particular is becoming very commercial, Peter warned us that “digital photographers don’t see the danger today” – it can be too sharp, with no feelings. “The problem with digital is that the photographer doesn’t really exist anymore, because this poor guy is in a studio somewhere. I’ve spoken with the commercial fashion photographers about this, and they have a screen with a cable attached to a camera, and everyone on set in turn comments on his pictures. It’s the end of photography; and even worse, the end of photographers. Everyone wants to push the image in a certain direction, and to get it where the photographer wants to get it, that is the tough reality. It’s a crime.” Peter cautions then that “it’s very important not to look too much around. My obsession is the definition of creativity, where it comes from, how it's composed and how you get to it, is very interesting. Then see what you can say with it.” Simon thinks it’s important to look at the world around us and to “not be obsessed with copying Peter Lindbergh, which would be a disaster. Look at film, fashion, performance art, contemporary art, look at what photography touches. You can’t make work if you look too much at other artists' work. Look elsewhere – through social and cultural connections, find your voice.”
On speaking about social media and the saturation of “perfect, air brushed images”, Simon was interested to see how the Chinese and South Korean photographers who submitted their work used social media and created images that don’t conform to the oversubscribed ideal foisted on us in today's age. “They are interested in ideas of individuality, and what it means to be different, especially in a society where people care what handbag you own.”
Simon and Peter were also very interested in the Middle East and the art schools here. They found Khoula’s work interesting in the way she tackled the social issues of visibility, which they found common in several of the prize winners’ work. “It’s a clever way of dealing with the subject, but it’s unusual to see women artists in the Middle East having a high profile. In the contemporary art world, it's more normal, but amongst photographers it's less.”