The photographer Raed Bawayah is a photographer of life, of human faces. He represents communities and personalities on the margins. His work is in the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, the Fonds Municipaux d’Art Contemporain de la Ville de Paris, the Mairie de Paris, the Schloss Akademie Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany, the Jerusalem Foundation and the Tel Aviv Museum.
However, this international fame that the photographer has known for the last ten years or so was not really predictable. He was born in Qatanna, a village in Palestine, in a family of 9 children. After losing his father at the age of 6, he started working to help his widowed mother. Raed picked fruits that he sold at the Jerusalem market, tended his goats and those of the neighbouring farms. He then went on to become a construction worker.
ON HOW HE BECAME A PHOTOGRAPHER
It was at the age of 28 that he took the risk of leaving these jobs and starting a career as a photographer. He wanted to devote himself to the object that has fascinated him for several years.
From a very young age, cameras fascinated Raed. It was at the Jerusalem market that he saw this mysterious instrument on the arms of many tourists.
With no experience, no portfolio, without ever having touched a camera, he introduced himself to the director of the Jerusalem School of Photography and New Media, the Musrara School. Thus, the latter, curious to see the motivation of this Palestinian worker, entrusted him with a camera so that he could prove himself.
Therefore, it is in his native village, Qatanna, that Raed captured his first photographs.
He got into the Jerusalem School in the early 2000s. But Raed’s training conditions were more than complicated. At this time, the second Intifada broke out and a law was passed forbidding Palestinians to enter Jerusalem. To get to class, the photographer had to leave his village at dawn every morning. He would cross the border on foot, taking care to avoid every patrol, checkpoint or police officer.
At the end of these four years at the Musrara School, he received a scholarship to settle in Paris, at the Cité Internationale des Arts. Since 2006, Raed lives in Paris and travels around the world to make his photo-documentaries.
PHOTOGRAPHY AS A HUMANE MESSAGE
Raed Bawayah often says that “photography is a human commitment”. It is almost his motto. Indeed, photography is a tool for spreading messages and crossing borders. With his artistic and poetic touch, he depicts marginalized groups, alienated from our society and daily life.
“Showing misery does not interest me, it is too intimate, it wouldn’t be respectful”Raed Bawayah
It is this humane character of photography that interests the artist: “Photography is a technical creation, but above all a humane creation.” Through his series, he gently convinces us that we are all part of one humanity.
Raed Bawayah has a vision of photography that is simple, uncluttered, quite authentic. His work is in black and white, using an analogue camera. This vision is of course slightly out of step in this world where digital is king. Indeed, the artist’s interests lie in the evolutions of photography. He works beyond his images in order to share his message. For him, today, it is no longer enough to teach photography. The world in which we live asks to have certain codes, certain knowledge that some photographers might lack. Knowing how to present oneself and form a place for oneself in the monumental world of photography is inevitable.
Raed has set about creating a photographic work called Wrinkled Souls. It will be a retrospective of his career and an essay on his relationship to photography. Release in 2021!
SLAVERY IN MAURITANIA
Mauritania is the country with the highest proportion of enslaved people, 4% of its population. The country abolished slavery in 1981. In 2007, Mauritania officialised slavery as a criminal activity. However, this activity, as a custom, has not stopped. They passed a law in 2015. But it does not mean that they prosecute a lot of people.
In 2016, out of 47 slavery-related cases brought to court, only two were followed by convictions.
In Mauritania, slavery is associated with a tradition. The Afro-Mauritanian and Haratine communities are the most affected by this practice. Descendants of slaves, the Haratines are an extremely discriminated community with no access to health, education or justice. A slave in Mauritania belongs to the family that exploits him, does not receive a salary and has no access to education. The family that exploits him can even decide to marry him, against his will. There are at least 40,000 slaves in Mauritania today.
This project aims at immortalizing the lives of these men and women whose identities have been ripped away. Through his portraits, Raed gives them back their place and dignity. The idea of “the culture of encounter” is at the heart of all his photographic projects. That on Mauritania associates a social, educational and cultural aim to it. Raed is planning to visit Mauritania again in the coming months, in order to deepen his photographic project, at the risk of the dangers he may encounter.
By Constance Courault