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

Emirates Woman - - Contents - WORDS: CARMEL GILL

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.”

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