Moroccan-born, New York-based photographer Lalla Essaydi (b. 1956) explores issues surrounding the role of women in Arab culture and their representation in the western European artistic tradition. Her large-scale photographs are based on nineteenth-century Orientalist paintings but work to subvert those stereotyped and sexualized representations. Aside from their timely and provocative subject matter, Essaydi’s photographs are technically impressive. Behind each of her images is weeks of preparation, as the text is composed, the fabrics are dyed to match the setting in which they will appear, and the architectural backdrops are carefully constructed. The entire field of the almost life-size photographs appears in sharp focus, the result of her use of a large-format camera and traditional film.
Lalla Essaydi has shown extensively worldwide, including a 2012 retrospective at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art. She has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Newsweek, Photo District News, and many other publications. Her work is in the permanent collections of: Louvre Museum, Paris; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian Museum of African Arts, Washington D.C.; the Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar, amongst others.