Uncovering the Beauty of Algeria’s Post-Colonial Architecture
Algiers like you’ve never seen it before
Sarah Ben Romdane
“What I love about photography is the rich and diverse prisms of analysis it offers. We can feel something very immediate if we look at a picture as an isolated piece, but if we place it within a series, we are also able to create a new vocabulary, a new way of reading things”, says 30-year-old French-Tunisian photographer Safouane Ben Slama, who recalls developing an interest in photography through his father who transmitted his passion to him when he was still a kid.
There is a nostalgic feeling coming out of Ben Slama’s new series that captures Algiers’ architecture, which reminds him of his native city, Paris. “I’m going towards something more and more contemplative and soothing, as if I was building some kind of refuge.”
Inspired by the book In Praise of Shadows by Japanese thinker Jun’Ichiro Tanizaki, Ben Slama shot this series while travelling across North Africa, from Morocco to Tunisia, on a mission to write a visual “populist history”. “Tanizaki’s conception of beauty is intertwined with the concept of time, which is something I was able to find in Algiers, as its architecture is stamped by colonisation, yet Algerians have re-appropriated the city.”
“When I was still at university, I was very much into post-colonial schools of thought, which have enabled me to decipher societies and cultures in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. What I like to do now with my work is to create bridges between different cultures and communities that I know. I also like feeling like I’m getting lost within my own landmarks in order to reconstitute them.”
Ben Slama recalls feeling welcomed like a King in Algeria. “In Oran, a stranger paid for my entire shopping trip when he heard me speaking Arabic. They kept on referring to brotherhood, which really warmed my heart”, he says.