By Nii B. Andrews.
Hajar Benjida is a Dutch-Moroccan photographer and a British Journal of Photography (BJP) International Photography Award Series Winner.
Her body of work is characterised by a documentary and intimate approach, initiated from photographing some of today’s biggest names in hip- hop (Skepta, Joey Bada$$, Swae Lee, Lil Yachty, Young Thug and many more) to documenting the strip club/ exotic dance scene in Atlanta.
The Atlanta photos explore the impact of club dancers on the music industry and narratives around the lives of the dancers and the agency of their bodies.
In this regard, Benjida breaks new ground since to date the hip-hop dance scene is mostly written about and photographed by men.
Her corpus offers a perspective that leaves the male gaze out completely.
After spending several weeks in the company of the dancers, she was able to gain a deeper insight into their work ethic, artistry and personal lives and relationships.
Benjida gained their confidence and was invited into their homes resulting in powerful tender portraits of these women as unique individuals beyond the stereotypes associated with hip-hop and its surrounding images and culture.
One such photo speaks to the role of Cleo – a dancer, as a mother far removed from the boisterous club scene.
Here unlike in standard industry hip-hop shots, Cleo takes center stage as she holds her newborn son and feeds him.
The details are striking.
Cleo’s T-shirt has the famous Mona Lisa image and the hairstyles appear quite similar thereby according an almost surreal Renaaisance weight to Benjida’s composition.
While Cleo looks directly into the camera, her relaxed, non chalant stance on the couch, exposed navel, drawn up T shirt and tattoos all together evoke powerful symbols; the timeless associations and imagery of a mother and child….but updated for a more inclusive world.
The shot of Barbi again staring straight at the camera in all black – featuring leather pants while holding her twin daughters in red ?lace/? chiffon frocks yet again provides a contemporary twist to an image that harks back to many millenia and cultures.
Benjida received her BA in Photography from the University of Arts, Utrecht in September 2019.
For winning the BJP International Photography Series, Benjida, has been awarded the prestigious solo show at London Gallery, TJ Boulting, this December.
Her work was exhibited at Art Basel Miami in 2018.