Photo project aims to shatter stereotypes of Arab men

Oct 30, 2018 in Multimedia Journalism

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.

Abdul Hadi has traveled across the world to shoot photos of Arab men to collect enough material for an upcoming book. She funding the journey with crowdsourcing and social media.

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:

Click here to read more about the project, read updates on Facebook and Twitter, and read the project’s blog.

Photo credit: Tamara Abdul Hadi