Mectoub: an introduction by Scarlett Coten (EN)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

In 2012 I decided to photograph men.

This new series is an intimate journey who took  me from North Africa to the Middle East in order to look into male identity. I set off to further my travels into countries which had long since been close to my heart, Morocco, Egypt and beyond ; Algeria, Tunisia, Palestine and Libanon.

Algiers, Beirut, Ramallah...I walk through the city from streets to alleyways, cafés to backyards, searching. Hidden places, abandoned houses, forgotten shorelines, these are the places where men will come, at my invitation, for a photographic tête-à-tête.

I want to photograph them in all their complexity, fragility, sensuality and freedom.

 

Mectoub is a standpoint, a relationship that I decided to have with men that were strangers to me, in these Arab countries which, since Still alive (2000/2003), have remained at the core of my photographic work. The men I chose had a freedom of spirit about them and I sensed a mutual connivance in their attitude.

Inviting men to pose for a woman and her camera amounts to a reversal of the habitual codes of representation via a switching of genders roles. This brings into question the sense of the principle of seduction and overturns deeply entrenched notions: posing is essentially a feminine or effeminate act and directing, a masculine one. Mectoub is a photographic act through which I affirm that the camera itself has a gender, that my gaze has a gender, and which is not that of a man. These are portraits of men taken by a woman, and who prompts these men to abandon themselves, accepting this loss of control even though they are aware of its ambiguity. There is always a sort of ambivalence, a struggle between abandon and resistance, in this scenographic narrative system in which each image brings up the dialectical interplay between character and his environment. The material is raw, untouched, different. An open photographic story, a romanticized biography in which the spectator is involved.

The portraits are an expression of the profound, ephemeral link between photographer and subject, they are the result of a dialogue in the confidential context of a face-to-face encounter in which the photographic act is likened to a performance aimed at trust and the unveiling.

The series Mectoub pose the question of the emergence of a new form of masculinity that challenges the established codes and raise issues regarding the notion of gender and the relationship to women. And also that of a generation involved in the evolution of today's world, which has adopted an emancipated attitude to life, free of the dictates of patriarchal societies, in which individual liberty is taken as an act of rebellion.

 

                                                                                                            Scarlett Coten

 

 

“I would like to think that the lives of the Arabic peoples and their relationship with themselves has been altered. It is their turn to speak out. Take to the streets. They have the means to express themselves and stand up for their rights. Their dreams. Their desire for justice and dignity. Their will to become free citizens, protected by the country’s laws. Freed from submission. Moving on. The debate. About freedom. Theirs. That of others. At present, the Arab world is a fertile breeding ground for all these ideas.” (Abdellah Taïa / 2014)