The Colorful World of Hassan Hajjaj
London based Moroccan-born photographer Hassan Hajjaj has been called the “Andy Warhol of Marrakesh”. His work is fun, colorful, full of pattern, texture, and surprises. His work is inspired by kitsch, pop culture, street style, and haute couture from Africa to London and challenges us to confront this mixing of styles with new eyes. He currently has carte blanche at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris.
Rather than using Morocco as a backdrop for fashion photography, his work uses Moroccan people and clothes and celebrate them in his U-LOT series. In his work he creates his own imaginary fashion shoot with local women posing in his creations. His photographs are dated with two years: that from the Western calendar, and the Islamic calendar as well.
One of the most striking aspects of Hajjaj’s work is the use of frames. Many of the large portraits have frames made up of cans of food, tins, or even plastic tomato bottles. In another series, frames are made from recycled tires that have been flattened and painted. Often texture appears in the backdrop of the photos, but sometimes colorful plastic mats serve as a texture in the frame as well. He has worked with local craftspeople to create his own housewares line that subverts and repurposes discarded items. He even designed his own repeat pattern wallpapers which are quite fun.
My favorite series was probably “Legs” providing a clash of colors of the lower body. For Hajjaj he sees the sea of colors as a metaphor for the multicultural existence of global nomads. Throughout his work the different influences he pulls from are visible.
In “Rockstars” he shares portraits of his creative friends who serve as artistic influences capturing his own style in the process. Each has a small bio, helping me discover a whole world of people I feel like I should know for my own inspiration. Many were taken in his pop-up studios he’s set up in major cities around the world. New dream: to have Hajjaj take my portrait too!
In the basement of the MEP you can find a pop-up studio to take your own street style photo. Tucked in a corner there’s also a small room with works by Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keita, and others who clearly have influenced the work of Hajjaj today.
If you are in Paris and can’t make it to the MEP before the show closes November 17th, you may be able to catch some shots in a few metro stations. (I know there are some currently on show in Madeleine station). Hassan Hajjaj can also be found on Instagram at @hassanhajjaj_larache. The show and his life were also recently featured in the NYTimes.
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