Nélida Nassar 12.30.2015
With the explosion of street-style blogs, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, fashion photography has become the new emerging visual language. Our culture is very conscious about what people look like now, so that is how we see photos today. In his late twenties, Tarek Moukaddem is a young Lebanese photographer from Tripoli. He creates memorably sensuous and provocative images for more than a dozen fashion designers who are making their mark both in Lebanon and internationally, including Azzi Osta, Ashi Studio, Hussein Bazzaza, Krikor Jabotian, Nicolas Jebran, Jessica k, Milia Maroun, Basil Soda, Toni Ward, and Rani Zakhem, among others.
His noteworthy series The Ceremonial Uniforms for fashion designer Omar Nasser el-Khoury manifests and emphasizes the macho element of the Palestinian male as embodied in a martyr, a fighter, a worker, a farmer and a politician. It is a clear commentary on patriarchy and nationalism as a global phenomena as seen from a Palestinian perspective. Moukaddem re-contextualizes the pictures as if he has moved away from the time period they referred to. His photography of the models and their lifestyle is informed by and has also taken over the role played by films in creating romanticized fashions that everybody can easily relate to.
In the series Beirut Dust, created for the exhibition Fashion dAze, which was part of the 2010 Beirut Souks opening ceremonies, the subjects are essentially women. Moukaddem, who has been collecting pictures from old photo albums of his family (in particular his grandmother) reframes and manipulates the photographs to create large, surreal representations of a society long since past. He also stages and retouches his contemporary interpretative photographs and sets them in what seems to be an earlier historical period.
Many of Moukaddem’s photographs that were not taken as fashion images are now perceived as such, though they were originally street shots. They encompass nudes, portraits, depictions of urban moods, self-portraits and musical groups such as Mashrouleila or Aziza. Moukaddem does not shy away from digitally experimenting with different subject matters and genres, and he is as at ease in black and white as in color.
In a country torn for the last 40 years by war and strife, people want to surround themselves with images of beauty. Things were and remain tough, and so nudes and fashion photos represent the opposite of what was and is still happening in their day-to-day lives. Moukaddem injects an element of illusion into all his images, attempting to define Lebanese attitudes toward stylish living while in the process lifting the viewer’s spirit and mood. He utilizes specific locations, props (including floodlights), and amateur and professional models as well as self-portraits to create fictionalized narratives that prompt viewers to connect high fashion with a glamorous lifestyle.
He is a commanding young talent worth nurturing and supporting. Nowadays, the art world has lost its disdain for fashion photography’s commercialism and has embraced it as a full-fledged art form. This change in attitude is eloquently expressed by fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh: “Fashion photographers are the new painters,” and Moukaddem, who creates meticulously constructed fantasies, is at their forefront.