Her + Him

Akram Zaatari

2001, 32:00 minutes, B&W, Arabic w English subtitles


A nude portrait of a grandmother, proud of posing nude facing a local photographer, is a pretext to visit the Armenian/Egyptian photographer Van Leo. Originally named Levon Boyadjian, Van Leo was born in Jihane (Turkey) in 1921, from an Armenian family that moved to Egypt in 1924. He opened a studio in Cairo in 1947. He is very much a good example of the photographer-craftsman, although he is one of few photographers from that period to consider themselves as artists.

This is a portrait of a studio photographer, but it is also an attempt to look at the photography of the 40s and 50s from a critical perspective, not a nostalgic one. It is a documentary that puts face-to-face traditional portrait photography and video. It is a dialogue between two media–crafted black and white print and the electronically/colored and manipulated screen–to comment on the transformations in art practices and terminologies, and to evoke some of the social/urban/political transformations that took place in Egypt over 50 years of its recent history.

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