The first time Algerian photographer Farida Hamak thought about taking pictures was back in 1972, when she was 22-years-old and had decided to go on a round-the-world trip. “I bought my very first camera in Singapore, it was a Pentax”, she nostalgically recalls. But, it wasn’t until she came back home and developed her pictures by hand, that she truly fell in love with photography. “I felt an indescribable emotion”, she says referring to that life-changing moment, when she literally saw her images appear before her eyes. “Suddenly, something clicked”, she adds. That rare revelatory feeling; Hamak was able to re-experience it. But this time, she didn’t have to travel to the unknown. It’s in her native country, Algeria, that the photographer found the magic.
“Photography is what keeps me connected to life”, explains the 69-year-old photographer, discussing how she uses her art to document the world around her. “This is how I can tell stories”. Speaking to Hamak, it sounds obvious that to her, photography is first and foremost about capturing reality and finding meaning in it.
Dazzled by the dreamy lights and oneiric atmosphere of Bou Saada (a town located near the Saharan Atlas mountains), Hamak was able to explore who she really was, and finally find the ultimate answers to her existential questions.
“I was born during the Algerian war”, she says referring to how the brutal war has been her key topic of exploration. But Hamak isn’t interested in looking at conflict so explicitly; she prefers to capture the less visible scars it leaves on people’s everyday life. And so her images aren’t just ethereally beautiful – they powerfully channel intimate emotions, precisely because they have this subtle ability to evoke memories. “Whether they’re visible or interiorised, wars leave marks that become markers of memory. And, these define identity”.