Expressing the essence of cultural construction, personal relationships, and social positioning, photographer Carmen Yahchouchi combines emotionally charged and spontaneous observation of intimate human experiences.
Growing up in Mali, Yahchouchi never questioned her dreamed path of becoming a photographer. Her curiosity and passion for the medium allowed her to connect and identify with the unique narratives of the individuals she photographs.
Relocating to Lebanon in 2010, Carmen pursued her Bachelor’s degree in photography at the Notre Dame University. Refining her skills, and developing a sharp eye for documentary photography, Yahchouchi began to understand her subject’s gestures and demeanor. This enabled her to develop an aesthetic sensibility towards complex issues that many shy away from.
Captivating the spectators with the famed portrait of Victoria, Carmen won the Byblos Bank Award in 2015. From her body of work, ‘My Mothers Gun,’ Victoria became a symbolic photograph that represents the matriarchal hardships that many experienced during the Lebanese civil war. Haunted by its memory, these women possess guns as a security measure to ease their fears and protect their families.
Upon winning the award, Carmen was granted a mentorship along with her first solo exhibition. During this time, she was completing her degree and was offered quality guidance from her professors.
While educating the viewers about the impact of social traditions on individuals who do not conform, ‘Beyond Sacrifice’ captures the cathartic experience of remarkable unwed women, who have devoted themselves entirely to the needs of their families.
Influenced by her aunt Samia, Yahchouchi’s, staged photographs transform these women into celibate muses that have accepted their fates and have continued living their lives independently.
Grabbing the attention of the Arab Funds for Art and Culture (AFAC), the Prince Claus Fund, and Magnum Foundation, Carmen was selected to participate in the third cycle of the Arab Documentary Photography Program (ADPP) in 2016. In the course of the six-month mentorship, Yahchouchi produced her series ‘King Soleil Man.’
Contradictory and almost intrusive, this body of work touches on themes related to patriarchy, narcissism, and sexual desire. By blurring the lines between the private and the public, Carmen was able to present a complex portrait of King Soleil Man, an individual who feeds on the vulnerability of African domestic workers through manipulation, domination, and sex. Due to the explicit visual content, the series was rejected by Magnum foundation.
Spending a lot of time with King Soleil Man, Carmen’s role as a photographer was blurred. No longer the storyteller but also a character in his narrative, she was unable to keep her emotions separate from the work. This lead her to withdraw and recover from the mental and emotional drainage she experienced.
Daring, raw, and eminently real Carmen’s photographs transcend the viewers into the many realities that the society might not be aware of. Recognized by established organizations and experts from the photographic field, her work has been exhibited numerous times, locally and internationally.