Visiting artist Amira Karaoud unites photography and social justice

13th November 2015

Amira Karaoud is a Tunisian-born photojournalist living in Louisville, Ky. After earning an MBA in finance and working on Wall Street, she became increasingly devoted to photography. She embarked upon a photographic world tour, focusing on social issues, particularly injustice against women. Her exhibition, “Ligne Rouge,” her first project on women’s rights in Asia, was shown in Italy, France, Tunisia and the U.S. Today she works on multiple photo-documentaries nurturing the self-esteem of women from all walks of life. Ms. Karaoud will speak on social justice art as part of the IU Southeast International Education Week (Nov. 16-20), and will judge this year’s IU Southeast Photography Contest. She recently spoke with academic information officer, Steven Krolak.

What contributes to a real global consciousness?

Today, the world is more and more open to everyone. There is no excuse for any of us to believe media blindly. The Internet is becoming a source of information that goes beyond just four big broadcasting news channels. Some countries have seen revolutions led by social media. The more people are curious to know each other, the more we are willing to understand our differences, the more conscious we are about what’s happening beyond the borders.

photo by Amira Karaoud

©Amira Karaoud

How do you foster the openness and trust that resonates in your photographs?

I love people, and I like to observe them. Before I started even taking my first photos, I used to go to parks just to watch people. I observed how they interact with each other, how they dress up, how they hold themselves. With my camera I get lost looking for stories to capture, emotions to eternalize. My camera allows me to talk to people and learn more about them. When I travel to remote areas, especially to places where I don’t speak the language, I easily can start a conversation, just by holding the camera and taking a picture. Whatever environment I find myself in, I try to live with people, share their meals, hear their stories, listen to their worries. Somehow it helps me capture who they are. While I am listening to the stories, I start creating my images, and when I look through my lens I can easily see them. I suppose that being open to hear what they have to say allows me to capture what’s important to them, what represents them. I’m only a messenger.

How can photojournalism help us to cope with global challenges?

I appreciate humanity and human creations. I appreciate our differences, the multiple cultures humans have created wherever they settled. This rich diversity is humanity’s most beautiful art form and I love to capture it. I love to take a piece of that everywhere I go and show it to everyone who can’t travel. My camera allows me to do that. My images allow me to open a conversation about the challenges we endure, and also to hold on to the memories we will have tomorrow, when things will have changed in our rush to look the same. I have been to 40 countries, and it seems to me that everywhere we are losing the treasures of individual cultures in the name of unification. I met tribes that are fighting to conserve their cultures, but they can’t avoid sending their kids to school, who then come home and ask to be given a cell phone. Photo documenting the uniqueness of different societies is important, I believe. Being aware of our differences might help us gain some awareness of their beauty.

photo by Amira Karaoud

©Amira Karaoud

How can photography contribute to global understanding?

I consider photography the most truthful piece of information. Photography is historic, authentic and accurate. Everyone is able to look at an image and reflect on it. It is open to interpretation but still holds most of the truth, and because of that, I believe that photography allows us to discover each other and also to help us start a conversation.

Where do you feel most at ease in your creative persona?

Somewhere new, somewhere different. Being on the road, out of my comfort zone, is absolutely the time I am the most creative.

Amira Karaoud will speak on social justice art on Tues., Nov. 17 from 12:20-1 p.m. in the IU Southeast Library, Third Floor Reading Gallery as part of IU Southeast’s International Education Week.

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