Born in Damascus, Syria 1970
Currently living in Minneapolis Minnesota
“As a child I was frightened by the images from my family photo album. I was unable to understand the images of people with piercing eyes and images of blurred children. Most frightening of all was the thought those people lived in a world that had lost its colors.
In 1977, a new form of photograph appeared, square and colorful, to the family photo album. For my father, it was the instant gratification of the Polaroid camera that made him so happy. For me the Polaroid camera brought the answer of knowing where the colors came from. But it also raised another question. “How did the colors get inside?” This became my interest in technical photography.
Still feeling that colored pictures embodied happiness, I began to hand color my black and white images. I guess it was my way of giving happiness to those people who lived in that world that lost its colors.”
“The chaotic, frantic streets of Cairo have their own pulsating rhythm whose order and purity can be disrupted by the offensive flash of camera aimed at an unsuspecting passerby. The idea of creating a studio on the street was meant to shed the intrusive quality of portrait photography and to challenge passing workers to regard me as one of them, a mobile businessman, waiting tired with my wood camera and flimsy backdrop. I was accepted and adopted into the current, and every soul that stepped in front of the backdrop and momentarily out of the street in which he blended, embraced his own individuality through the confession of his story in his raw photograph.”
The relationship between the “West” and the Arab World at the turn of the XXI century requires reinforcement and regeneration due to the international political events and circumstances of the last years. The need to encourage cultural meeting points and to promote profound mutual awareness is essential.
The work of Osama Esid is a visual manifest of this relationship, investigating the social preconceptions and stereotypes that have been created on either side in the past, and which in some way still persist in our collective unconscious. The inquiry into “Orientalism”, with its exotic and sensual connotations, from an artistic contemporary point of view generates a huge range of creative and theoretical possibilities which reveal the existing contradictions in the creation of clichés. The exhibition “A play on Representation; The Egyptian Experiment” reopens the debate on these fundamental issues which unite East and West and which once so concerned Edward Said. If we follow his interpretation, the West constructed a beautified and alluring image of Orient, a fantasy which, we must not forget, was part of a precise historical moment, and responding to an imperial agenda it was designed to contain and control the Orient. Thus Said dismantles the concept of Orientalism in a negative way.
It is exactly Said’s negative presumption which Osama Esid questions in his photographic oeuvre. Apart from the Imperialist discourse it stems from, can nothing positive be derived from it? For Esid that image of Orient constructed by the West also penetrated the East, “the oriental fantasy exists on both sides”. Furthermore and here is where Esid’s motivation and inspiration lies, one can inquire into a stereotype to create new interpretations using its own language and mechanisms and feeding on those same inner contradictions, without needing to pigeonhole a culture.
Thus in the “Orientalism and Nostalgia” series, Esid reconstructs a theatrical period scenario but displaces it in full XXI century in one of the most important capitals of the region, Cairo. The aim of each piece is to acquire the atmosphere of those old vintage pictorialist photos, where beauty becomes the main protagonist. He highlights the more sensual side of Orientalism, referring to those essentially feminine spaces which also remind us of French XIX century painting. He retrieves the sensuality and eroticism in the gaze and enticing pose, although endowing his women with a defiant intensity, no longer passive and complacent, but on the contrary women who are in control of their bodies and their destinies.
By acknowledging beauty in this context, Osama Esid brings forth another representative twist, which is to try to modify the current widespread vision of his region, one characterised by images of war, terrorism and fundamentalism.
On the other hand, the “Workers of Cairo” series presents a direct contemporary account of the most common professions and jobs of this immense metropolis. Once again, however Esid portrays it as if it belonged to another time, endowing his models with a timeless quality. The strength of this series, which is so reminiscent of the work of August Sander, lies in f orcing both the Western and Eastern audience to observe those armies of average men who create our day to day lives, the mundane heroes, who we refuse to acknowledge and would prefer to ignore.