From your site, I noticed that the recent pieces are from your After 100 Years in Morocco series and appreciate the consistent anonymity of this particular series to preserve their identities. The Matisse works that inspired your each of your pieces however show faces and other identifiable details. How did this affect your study of Matisse and your portrayal of sex trafficking? Perhaps the passing of a 100 years since Matisse's work has blurred their identities? I feel that your showcasing of widespread and heinous nature of sex-trafficking is strengthened in that the prostitutes could be anyone. A viewer may even be more likely to feel familiarity with the subject by way of their own projections.
Thanks for your comment Uji.
When I started writing down my project plan it was clear that I wouldn't reveal anyone's identity for several reasons.
Prostitution is strictly illegal in Morocco and if these girls were caught by the police, they would have to go to jail. And jail isn't the worst option when it comes to honor and such abstract concepts some Moroccan people, mostly older men, still take very seriously. And as these girls were already the victims of the game I wanted to make sure there wouldn't be any negative consequences for them, vice versa, I wanted to bring up a touchy subject to raise awareness.
Secondly, I wanted to focus on the topic itself: sex tourism in Morocco and try to handle it as a whole. In a rather journalistic approach a detailed profile story would have worked just fine, however I wanted to distance my work from that and place it in the context of contemporary art. In that context the viewer may even be more likely to feel familiarity with the people in the pictures, just like you said, it's a different gaze. In the field of contemporary art the viewer can ask such questions as "Perhaps the passing of a 100 years since Matisse's work has blurred their identities?" I don't have the answer, but this is how I can challenge the viewer and to force him/her to think about the subject more, to dig deeper.
When it comes to Matisse's paintings it's important to take into account that they are paintings, not photographs. You can't really prove anyone's identity as you could if they were photographs. It's a different kind of document. Therefor I think my work is still a relevant pastiche to Matisse's paintings.
I really appreciate the challenge you presented in your response, Tuomas. One of the most amazing things about art is that it is so intertwined with other fields such as science, math, history, and language. A single piece of art can have so many different meanings given the context of an article, book, series, location, document, or stand-alone piece. My own art experience has centered around free-hand drawing, historical painting, and scientific illustration, so I had not been initially inclined towards your reading.
From a more journalistic approach I can see how critical the Matisse inspiration is. Perhaps your work speaks more to what has or has not changed in the passage of 100 years, in Morocco but also the world at large. I admire that you followed Matisse's journey. When I think of art as a portal for social activism, I consider graffiti, pamphlets, performance, films, and of course photo journalism. I also think that it is valuable to view art in multiple contexts because such important messages are more able to reach a wider audience.
In capturing an unsuccessful moment, I believe that you do capture the appearance and a glimpse of the truth when you dig deeper, like you said. However, I wonder what your criteria is then for a photograph to become part of your publicly viewed series because you don't include every unsuccessful moment.