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Female Gaze Friday: Tamara Abdul’s “Picture an Arab Man”

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll look at the series, Picture an Arab Man by photographer Tamara Abdul:

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul, Picture an Arab Man, photography

Tamara Abdul began this series of portraits in 2009, creating images of semi-nude Arab men. Abdul’s photography aims to expose and destroy stereotypes of the Arab male by showing the diverse backgrounds and appearances that Arab men have.

Her work breaks down racial and gender stereotypes. Of these Abdul notes, “the development of a vague, archetypal image of the Arab woman as a pious, doe-eyed virgin, an overtly-sexual harem whore, a perpetually-oppressed victim, or any combination of the above. Complementing this is an image of the Arab man as a sexual predator, a greedy oil-rich sheikh, the classic ‘rag-head terrorist’, or again, any amalgam of these”. The Arab men depicted here by Abdul are nude and vulnerable, treated as human beings rather than stereotypes. Photo by photo, Abdul works to show the world real individuals as opposed to one large, stereotyped group.

These pieces are subtly sensual, with the nude male form portrayed gently with a soft focus. Work like Abdul’s is very important in its unique portrayal of men in a way that is not hyper-masculine or detached. These men aren’t afraid to smile or behave coyly in front of the camera.

You can see more of Abdul’s work here or read an interview with the artist here. Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Semi-surreal photography of hopeful Zambian astronauts by Cristina de Middel.

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