A distinctive clue can be found in a number of Essaydi’s photographs that indicates she is using film and not a digital file to produce her images. On the outer edge of each image in the black border there are text and numbers that identify the type of film being used. In the piece Outdoor Gossip, 2008, from her Les Femmes du Maroc series, “Kodak 160NC-2 3091” can clearly be seen across the upper right border. Essaydi does relate in a number of her interviews that she uses film as opposed to digital files. However, she is hesitant or perhaps resistant to explain very much about her photographic process, never expounding upon the use of the view camera or film process.
Essaydi does not seem to have a tendency toward using only one film type. In her photograph Converging Territories #10, 2003, from her series Converging Territories, the text “Fujifilm” can be found on the upper left border of the photograph. Several of the other photographs displayed on the artist’s website, and in this exhibition, in the Converging Territories series also include the film brand text in the image border. From what is shown on Essaydi’s website in this series, it appears that the artist was consistent in using one film type for the whole project. This can also be seen in the photographs in the Les Femmes Du Maroc series with Kodak film being used.
Though the film type may not seem especially important, it does affect the quality of the image. Films vary in light sensitivity and grain; generally a photographer chooses a specific film for a reason. This choice is often based on what the photographer will be shooting, where they are shooting and how they are shooting. The Kodak NC film that Essaydi uses is known for its “consistently smooth, natural reproduction of the full range of skin tones” and “significantly finer grain at all speeds for improved scanning performance and greater enlargement capability.”
Because Essaydi does not crop her photographs, “I started not only keeping the black border, but also creating it. If you use just the normal frame of black, you would have straight black lines,” each photograph has a distinctive black frame around it. As we have seen, the film brand and or film number on the film is seen in the final photograph due to this lack of cropping. Leaving the brand and number visible is not uncommon. This visual element is just another part of the aesthetic language of photography, and more specifically the aesthetic language of large format and other film-based photography. The inclusion of the text in the border both provides the viewer with the information that Essaydi uses a photographic process that incorporates color film, and it informs the viewer that the image is un-cropped.
The fact that the photograph remains un-cropped may seem trivial, but in fact it tells the viewer that Essaydi took the time to create the exact image she wanted while photographing it. This revelation does not seem surprising when considering the time and effort put forth by Essaydi into the staging of each of her compositions. She completes her composition and choice of subject matter before and during photographing. There are no adjustments of scale or content left to be made in the printing process.
 “KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 160NC, 160VC, 400NC, 400VC, and 800 Films.”
http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/e190/e190.pdf, Accessed January 30, 2014.
Shanahan, “A Conversation with Lalla Essaydi,” 22-23.