Asempanews Menu

asempa news logo

Looking through the lenses of The Alaouis as with mother and daughters

Wilfred Clarke

Leading by Christine, the Alaouis recently exhibited their classic photographies at Sulger-Buel Lovell's Art Gallery in London.

Christine Alaoui is the mother of deceased photographer and video-grapher Leila Alaoui and the president of the eponymous foundation and association, created to preserve the work and humanistic values of Leila Alaoui.

Born in Paris, Christine Alaoui flew to New York at the age of 19, she met her Moroccan husband and studied photography at Orange Community College and interior design at the New York School of Interior Design. After returning to Paris in the 1970’s, she moved to Marrakech later with her family.

Christine Alaoui's work shone through while shooting some of her photographs near the end of when Roland Barthes wrote his famous essay Camera Lucida.

And drawing some similarities in those pages, Roland Barthes defines photography by the phrase: ‘this has-been’, either by capturing the image of a person, or by fixing his or her image at a precise moment in time, he states that a photograph bears witness that this person ‘has been’ alive.

But it also implicitly suggests that this moment belongs to the past, and that this same person is, perhaps, alive no longer. The idea that photography is linked to death seems particularly apt to describe the work of Christine Alaoui.

Although her shots, pictures or images have been photographed some long time ago, the pictures still speak volume of her work as a legendary photographer, thereby drawing a deep and distinctive balance between antique and modernity.

The Morocco which she photographed – with its barbers presiding beneath tents or with its old dye-works – seems almost as far removed from us as an Orientalist painting of Delacroix’s. Nor do we recognize with any greater clarity the American streets through which Cadillacs pass with their antiquated designs.

Speaking to Christine Alaoui at the exhibition, while reminiscing in reflection to her works she said “I have never done such an exhibition before, this idea was that of my daughter Leila who passed way due to an injury she sustained in Ouagadougou while working for amnesty International.

“She actually chose all these photos from my works, for the exhibition before she passed away. So that is what we are showing today in addition to that of my other daughter Yasmina and also the curator Guillaume de Sardes.”

With the advent of photographic cameras, equipment and machinery the epoch and art of photography during her photographic days and now is somehow very different, comparatively Christine said: “Our time was the analogue times which was more difficult than the digital era where things are much easier.”

As to how Christine sees the future of photography she said: “Now, many, many people are doing photography because it is so much easier, because there digital cameras, I-phones and all that.

“But still, I think if one is not a good photographer, one can use all the media they want and it will not make them a good photographer.”

According to her what makes a good photographer is someone to possess a 'Professional Eye'.” You either have it, or you do not, because one can have the best camera in hand but if they do not have the 'eye' to shoot with it, then the photo is not going to be good.”

Shedding some light on the activities of her deceased daughter Leila and her foundation, Christine said: “Leila fought all her life for justice and helped some immigrants. She worked with refugees and also gave photography lessons to some young children. So what we want to do with her foundation is to continue doing what she believed in as her will.”

The reason and importance of the exhibition is for Christine Alaoui to exhibit the works of her daughters, Leila ( a photographer) and Yasmina (a visual artist).

The exhibition was a long time idea borne out of Leila's photographic ideologies. As Roland Barthes intuited, sometimes a photograph can be at once the blessing of a captured moment and its curse.

Christine Alaoui exhibited her photographic work for the first time at Photomed 2016 and more recently at the French Institute of Beirut.

In as much as the exhibition was about Christine as the main photographer, it is much important as rightfully as her deceased daughter who was until her demise an artist, a photographer and video-grapher born in 1982, and studied photography at the City University of New York.

Her work explores and blends the building of identity, cultural diversity and migration in the Mediterranean area.

She used photography and video to express various social realities through a visual language lying on the boundary between the documentary and the plastic arts.

Since 2009 her works have been shown in various countries, amongst other places such as the Institut du Monde Arabe and at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, at the Konsthall of Malmo in Sweden, in the national palace of the citadel of Cascais in Portugal, or at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal, Canada.

Leila’s humanitarian commitment also included various photographic missions for prominent NGOs, such as the Danish Refugee Council, Search for Common Ground and HCR.

In January 2016, while working on an Amnesty International commission about women’s rights in Burkina Faso, Leila Alaoui was seriously wounded in the terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou.

She did not recover, and died on 18 January 2016 and that prompted 'The Fondation Leila Alaoui' which was set up in preserving her work, defending her values and inspiring and supporting artists who are working to promote human dignity.

Another talent and descendants of the Alaouis is Yasmina who is of French and Moroccan heritage. Born in New York in 1977. She studied Fine Arts at the Carousel du Louvre in Paris, and earned a BA in Sculpture from the College of William and Mary.


She currently lives in New York City, and exhibits internationally. The underlying themes behind all her works deal directly with her experiences of multicultural upbringing and aims to bridge extremes by embracing opposites: secular and holy, classical and contemporary, order and chaos, repulsion and attraction.

She is known to create complex and intricate visual works using a wide variety of techniques, which she combines in an authentic manner.

Yasmina has collaborated with photographer Marco Guerra on the Tales of Beauty and 1001 Dreams series, which have been collected and exhibited internationally since 2003.

And finally introducing Guillaume de Sardes. Guillaume de Sardes is a photographer, video artist, curator and a writer.


His novels have been distinguished several times, by the Prix François Mauriac de l’Académie francaise .

His artistic work, which focuses on the intimate, on wandering and on the night, is regularly exhibited in France and abroad, both in art galleries and in museums.


Other Stories