The history of large format photography and the tableau vivant (French), or “living picture”—a staged scene with purposefully arranged figures and props–are critical to a deeper understanding of Lalla Essaydi’s work. The artist draws on both of these practices to combine a pureness in her technique with Orientalist themes of staging and setting. Essaydi takes a unique approach to exploring cultural boundaries and critiquing nineteenth century Orientalist paintings. She explores many aspects of female identity by her use of henna painting; her visual commentaries on Orientalist stereotypes for Arab women; and her theatrical staging of photographs. Essaydi’s use of traditional large format photography supports her painterly techniques and strengthens the overall concept of her work.
Click here for a .pdf of the entire essay by Gabrielle Gill.