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Moroccan graffiti

Thami Benkirane's fascinating world

Culture

Thami Benkirane was born in 1954 in Fes, where he lives and works as a university teacher. His photographs, which are pieces of visual art, with layered colours and moments from everyday life, have been exhibited since the 90s in Morocco, France, Mali, Germany and Syria.

Experimentation plays a major part in my approach to photography. I love playing around with my camera. This leads me to spare one third of each film so that I can explore new directions and try to widen the range of my own aesthetic research. The experiment is most invariably completed once I have pressed the shutter. Post-processing is of little interest to me.

Let me confess: I’ve never killed my inner child. Like a child, I love playing and the camera for me is an infinite realm populated with playful potentialities and creative experiments. Playing makes it possible for the unimaginable to incarnate within a photography.

What I like is to take my time to carefully prepare experiments for film, the kind that eludes digital photography. That’s the case with the series called Moroccan Graffiti. This series of photographs is based on the aesthetics of the ‘third image’, the one that appears during the blend transition in a slideshow. Technically speaking, this method is reminiscent of the palimpsest and relies on the superposition of two images on a film during the shooting process. The hybrid as a character takes a significant place in my work. This multiple exposure technique allows me to blend two or more images from different worlds or fields.

I start by exposing each of the film’s 36 exposures to a background made up of junk, half erased graffiti, remains of torn out posters, corroded metal surfaces, derelict walls and so on. Then, I rewind the film and perform a second sequence of shots over that same film. During this second phase, I shoot scenes inhabited by a human presence. Genre scenes, human activities, daily life. At that point it should be noticed that, in Moroccan Graffiti, there’s no planned relation between the first image and the one shot on top of it. The superimposition is random so as to play with good surprises and accidents.

There are two forces propelling my photographic works in a rather paradoxical way. The first one may be called dis-enchantment. There is a ruin which feels like an incurable entropic evil haunting our very being. It’s the ruin of the self and its mutilated dreams. It’s also the ruin of a disillusioned look from an under-developed, corrupted country, its rusty mechanisms and its absence of prospects.

The second one is re-enchantment. It consists of magnifying the ruin’s constitutive and resulting materials. I’ve always felt and expressed a sensitive and sensual linkage to matter and everything relative to the merciless passing of time, erosion and the vanities of humankind.

Translated from French by Gregory Dziedzic.

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