Leila Alaoui

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Photographer, Victim of terrorist attack
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Leila Alaoui (10 July 1982 – 18 January 2016) was a French-Moroccan photographer and video artist. She died from injuries suffered in a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Early life

Leila Alaoui was born in Paris to a Moroccan father and a French mother, and grew up in Marrakesh, Morocco. During her childhood and adolescence, she was regularly exposed to tragic stories of migrants drowning at sea while undertaking hazardous journeys, which she interpreted as stories of social injustice. When Alaoui turned 18, she moved to New York to study photography at the City University of New York, then to Europe before returning to Morocco in 2008, with visits on a regular basis to Beirut and Paris.


Alaoui believed that photography and art could be used for social activism, and should be used for "reflecting and questioning society". As a result, she chose to focus her work on social and national realities of cultural identity and diversity, migration and displacement. To do this, she used image creation, reports and studio video installations. One of her commonly used techniques was to set up a portable studio in a public place such as a market square and to invite interested passers-by to be photographed. Alaoui stated that her inspiration for this type of portrait photography came from Robert Frank's portrayal of Americans in the post-war era, "The Americans".

Art critics described her work as "post-Oriental", referring to the theory of Orientalism proposed by Edward Said.

Her work was exhibited at the Marrakesh Biennial in Morocco in 2012 and 2014, Art Dubai, and in New York, Beirut, Tunisia, Argentina, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Her photos were published in The New York Times and Vogue magazine. Her work is part of the collections of the Qatar Museum and the Société Générale. She also completed assignments for the Spanish TV reality show El Mago.

In 2013, she created a video installation entitled "Crossings", describing the journeys of Moroccans travelling to Europe. It was exhibited at the Marrakech Museum of Photography and Visual Arts in 2015, and at the Cairo Video Festival in 2015. Photographs from the project were exhibited at the Maison européenne de la photographie (MEP) in Paris in 2015-2016 as an exhibition titled "The Moroccans".

In 2015, she completed a photographic assignment "Everyday Heroes of Syria", in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, focusing on Syrians living in refugee settlements. The project was completed for the Danish Refugee Council, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office and ActionAid.


Alaoui was hired by Amnesty International to work on a photographic assignment on women's rights in Burkina Faso. On January 16, 2016, during her first week working on the assignment, she was seriously wounded by gunshots while sitting in a parked car with her driver outside the Cappuccino cafe. She died three days later of a heart attack. Her remains were flown to Morocco at the expense of the King, Mohammed VI of Morocco.

On her death, the director of the MEP and the president of Institut du Monde Arabe made a joint statement praising her work giving "a voice to the voiceless" and noting that she was "one of the most promising photographers of her generation".

Source: gazeta.ru, wikipedia.org

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