Finalist 2016: Scarlett Coten
In ‘Mectoub’, the French photographer Scarlett Coten questions the roles and image of men in the Arab world. Her portraits draw attention to the discrepancy between social conformity and individual longing.
Following the Arab Spring, Scarlett Coten began looking into diverse aspects of the changes taking place in societies in North Africa and the Middle East. “In 2012 I decided to photograph men. For four years I travelled from North Africa to the Middle East, in order to look into male identity. The series explores the men in this region in a deeply personal way, interweaving portraits and places. I play with the idea of both staged and documentary genres, while blending testimony with intimacy.”
“What is ‘Mectoub’? It is a standpoint, a relationship I decided to have with men who were strangers to me.”
Looking through the camera lens from the perspective of a woman, she managed to produce very direct portraits of the men she photographed. With ‘Mectoub’ – a play on words combining the Arabic ‘maktub’ (مكتوب), which refers to the fateful ‘It is written...’, and the French ‘mec’, a colloquial and friendly term for ‘guy’ –, the photographer subtly questions the traditional image of men in the Arab world.
Scarlett Coten (*1958) works as a free-lance photographer on long-term projects set mostly in the Arab world. After graduating from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles, she travelled to Egypt in 2000 to produce her first important series. For ‘Still Alive’, she spent months accompanying Beduins in the Sinai Desert. She has been working on her ‘Mectoub’ portrait project since 2012. It has already been exhibited on a number of occasions.