“In your face,” “an eyeful,” and “bursting with color” might be terms that first come to mind when viewing the series “Mirage of Life” by the young Emirati photographer Farah Al Qasimi, presented this year as part of the Louis Roederer Discovery Prize at the 2021 Rencontres d’Arles photography festival. Born in 1991, Qasimi is interested in the typical middle-class interiors (including her own) of her country of origin, the United Arab Emirates. Nowadays, she splits her time between Dubai and her adopted city: Brooklyn.
There’s an Instagram look to the way she captures a corner of an apartment or an object here and there, details on which Qasimi lingers on in her shots. The presentation accentuates this effect, with images that overlap, echo each other and make up a coherent whole. It feels like the series, when viewed in its entirety, is one large photograph. Through this process, which can also be found in her other projects, which she displays on her website, Qasimi takes full advantage of contemporary devices to document, introduce humor, and distance herself from the subjects she photographs.
The photographer plays with stereotypes and clichés by fully embracing them. We discover this country, the United Arab Emirates, a bit as we imagined it, with a fair amount of bling and full of paradoxes. Tradition rubs shoulders with modernity, traditional furniture, digital objects, flashy colors, and other, more understated colors. By taking an interest in the interiors of these apartments, Al Qasimi is also giving Emirati women an important place in this series where, in the privacy of a home, taboos are broken down.
By Sabyl Ghoussoub
Born in Paris in 1988 into a Lebanese family, Sabyl Ghoussoub is a writer, columnist and curator. His second novel, Beyrouth entre parenthèses [Beirut in Parentheses] was released by Antilope editions in August 2020.
Click here for information on Farah Al Qasimi.