In his photographic series “Riad” Marfouk provides an original perspective on Muslim identities that, while historical, points to an unseen side of the Islamic world. His process indicates nostalgia for a past era; his tools – a large format viewfinder film camera and halogen cinema lights – were commonly used in the 1950’s, a period of great freedom and prosperity in the Middle East. Marfouk’s subjects are exclusively his relatives, and are all pictured in the Riad, the ancestral home of his great-grandfather, the Caïd Layadi, in Marrakech. Through the construction of a deeply personal photographic syntax, Marfouk notes that he dissociates historically mischaracterized Muslim identities from preconceptions embedded in traditional Western representation. In so doing, as he explains, he creates a self-contained world in which the viewer can perceive Islamic culture the way he did growing up in Morocco.
“I focused on photographing my relatives” explains Marfouk, “because I can’t honestly make claims about a ‘general Muslim experience.’ There is no single Muslim reality to portray. By expressing my own vision, I am trying to bring diversity to a Western-centric conversation that largely revolves around images of pain and submission.”
In Morocco, Marfouk was joined by Rachel Heath Ferguson, a faculty member from Princeton’s Department of Sociology. Ferguson observed Marfouk’s photographic practice in situ, and in particular, interpreted its sociological implications. “The goal is not only to ground the portraits in the broader context of an incredibly complex society,” Ferguson explains, “but also to shine a unique academic perspective on the subjects, in parallel with Walid’s artistic perspective.”
Marfouk is majoring in Operations Research and Financial Engineering and pursuing a certificate in the Program in Visual Arts. His senior thesis advisors are artist-photographers and faculty members Deana Lawson, whose work is currently exhibited in the Whitney Biennial, and James Welling, whose works are held in major museum collections including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, MoMa in New York, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo.