Canadian-Iraqi photojournalist Tamara Abdul Hadi wants to show a different side of Arab men than the violent, macho one often shown in the media.
To shatter these stereotypes, her provocative project "Picture an Arab Man" shows another side - with the subjects often partly nude.
IJNet: Why did you start this project?
Tamara Abdul Hadi: I’ve actually been working on this project since 2009, and I’m now at a point where I want to complete it and get it ready for publishing...I also believe that a project like this is as timely now as 10 or even 15 years ago when it comes to the visual representation of Arab men.
IJNet: How inaccurate is the image of Arab men in Western media? How about in Arab or Middle Eastern media?
T.A: Arab men have been stereotyped in Western media for a very long time through films, literature, theater etc. They are branded as hyper-masculine, violent and dangerous. The word "terrorist" is used a lot, especially in Western media. For an example, [see] Jack Shaheen’s “Reel Bad Arabs”, showing how Arabs have been depicted for decades in Hollywood, as early as the 1920s.
I think there is also a misrepresentation in Arab media that needs to be addressed.
IJNet: Why did you choose Arab men? Do you think Western media portray an accurate image of women?
T.A: Arab women are definitely also misrepresented in Western media, but in a very different way than Arab men. While men are seen as oppressive and violent, women are seen as oppressed and powerless. There is a big disconnect when it comes to media representation. I decided to tackle the subject of Arab men first.
IJNet: How did you find your models?
T.A: Finding my subjects varies from place to place. Through my travels on assignment and visits around the Middle East, I would always find myself in countries and cities where I might spot a person that who would be good for the project. I would usually approach them, break down the concept to them and nine times out of 10, I would get a very positive reaction. They are happy to be a part of it, because they related to the concept. They were all volunteers.
IJNet: Why are the men are semi-nude?
T.A:The reason I choose to portray the men as semi-nude is because my portraits focus mainly on the face and having no distinguishing clothing/jewelry and accessories helps keep the focus on that.
To hear Tamara Abdul Hadi talk about her project and see more of the photos, watch the video below:
Photo credit: Tamara Abdul Hadi