Héla Ammar, born in 1969, is a Tunisian photographer whose work focuses, essentially, on memory and identity.
Photographer, woman and Tunisian
Ammar began her artistic career by producing abstract paintings, which she quickly abandoned for photography. This medium effectively allowed her to place herself as a woman, and more importantly, a woman from a Mediterranean country. For the first time, the photographer was propelled into the public space during the Tunisian Revolution, during which she worked with the artist JR on a series of portraits of Tunisians, breaking away from the traditional portrait of the president. Ammar’s training in law has, also, led her to explore the world of prisons, where one of her most important series is set.
Expression through layers
Through her photography, Ammar explores the themes of memory and identity. The series Counfa re-establishes the identity of prisoners who are still living in the old regime, whilst Female Identities questions the gaze of society and traditions on the female body. The photographer also questions the Orientalist imaging of a former colony through re-appropriation. Ammar layers her portraits with architectural details, giving Female Identities its softness and reducing the violence of her commentaries.
Ammar’s work has been presented in several exhibitions and international biennales: Dak’Art, MuCem in Marseilles, Rencontres de Bamako, OFF Biennale Cairo, World Nomads in New York and Rencontres d’Arles. Her work is also a part of several collections, including one in the British Museum.