My photographs are a by-product of the reality of my life. They deal with my personal biography, the collective memory of the society in which I live, and tie political reality to social reality. In my photographic work, I want to show the presence of beauty, for which I use the strategies of “seduction” and “capture.” As opposed to ideal, platonic beauty, which is the unifying aspect of the worldly things that make it up, in my photographs, beauty belongs to the specific moment. It is the outcome of a one-time encounter between myself (the photographer), the object, and light.
My photographs convey a sort of incidental, quotidian beauty. I photograph oranges in a white porcelain bowl on a marble countertop, two “white” apples nestled in a white net that attests to their fragility as they rest atop a brightly hued table, an erotic pineapple wrapped in pinkish-red wrapping, and more . . . I find a stoic simplicity in these objects. For me they are a photographic moment—a specific event of beauty realized in the mechanical photographic act that will fix it forever as a photograph.
In his novel Things: A Story of the Sixties (Les Choses: Une histories des années soixante, Paris: Renee Juillard, 1965), Georges Perec tells the story of Sylvie and Jerome, a Parisian couple caught up in the spell of the enlightened liberalism of the nineteen-sixties that is crumbling amidst the surrounding social realities. In the novel’s first pages, the illusion of happiness is shattered by the narrator’s sober, detached description of things. Perec describes a state of harmony between social status, means, and awareness that enables the fulfillment of the bourgeois fantasy of happiness. The world of objects and values that characterize Sylvie and Jerome’s dream coincides with the capitalist value ladder that is supposedly accessible to all.
The objects in my photographs have a beauty that “belongs” to the masses: a sparkling glass orb next to a crystal swan in a display window on Allenby Street, an “authentic forgery” at a reasonable price, flowers, peacocks, beauty treatments, ten pita breads in a bag, pineapples, orchids, plants, feathers, wooden souvenirs from Africa. What not? The beauty present in the photograph is not the product of any hierarchical correspondence between the object itself and its Idea. The path toward the realization of this beauty does not necessitate a Sisyphean climb (social, economic, or conceptual). Beauty becomes realized on the surface—they are all there is and they demand their rightful place.
My photographic objects are many and include among other things, nature, consumer products, and people. For me they are all decorations—ornaments that we decorate ourselves in, that we use to decorate, that flaunt themselves, demand to be seen and to be used by the consumer—that take part in a celebration of beauty and seduction. Through the photographic act, I attempt to instill “beauty in everything,” but I leave the value judgment to the viewer. Moreover, in my photographs, I propose to the viewer the possibility that “aesthetics” is not only a matter of beauty. Aesthetics is a function of the relationship between place, identity, image, and gaze, which define and mark what the French philosopher Jacques Rancière calls “regimes” of vision and language, within which the social roles are distributed in relation to a common space of meaning. In this sense, the aesthetic is neither the “negative” nor the “other” of the political, since both are partners in the foundation of the social field by means of the boundaries they set—boundaries that are at once material and conceptual, and delineate the boundaries of the obvious.
Through the photographing of objects, locations, and portraits, my pictures examine the act of the aesthetic as defining and marking objects, places, and identities, at the same time as they reshape the relationship between gaze and sign in a way that opens the visible (and the object on display) to more complex kinds of social and cultural claims. In my photographs I try to examine and emphasize the relationship between gaze and meaning, the way looking (and looking away) defines and denotes, and through identification, imparts value. I am conscious of the fact that the objects I photograph are considered culturally “low” or “kitsch”: red roses, plastic flowers, display windows on Allenby Street, beauty salon signs. My experiment is that the visual rhetoric of the photographs will work to counter the social and cultural attribution of the works, because they are photographed as “still-lives.” In other words, the gaze that is directed toward these objects, and as a result, the effect of these photographs on the viewer, creates a new relationship between object, image, and sign.
My effort in relation to these objects is for the photographs to broadcast absolute seduction and sensuality, which is why I wander in places that intuitively, and in a very real way, captivate me. In this way I seek to expose, not hide, the connection between passion and vision. In this way, and by means of the “gaze,” “artificial” flowers, which function as a commodity, can be objects of meditation about what is not, and schematic advertising images can signify longing for another time and other possibilities of being.
My photographs do not ignore cultural and social differences; they do not copy or document difference, turning it into the border line of the visible, rather they move back and forth within it in order to suggest new relationships between identity, sight, and sign outside the existing classifications and divisions. Thus, they offer a place where the gaze can create a new economy, beyond instrumentalization and objectification, and can mark passions that are not only about ownership and possession. In the photographs, the difference is set in motion like an echo that is simultaneously present and absent, , real and imagined, hidden and on display for all to see.