Familiar Stranger brings together a selection of black and white landscape and street photographs. Shot in the city where she was born this series explores the monumental scale of western advertising in relationship to the post-war developing urban setting.
A.I.R. Gallery is pleased to announce Familiar Stranger, an exhibition of recent photographs by Fellowship Artist Manal Abu-Shaheen. This is Abu-Shaheen’s first solo exhibition in New York City. Familiar Stranger brings together a selection of black and white landscape and street photographs from Abu-Shaheen’s ongoing series Beirut. Shot in the city where she was born this series explores the monumental scale of western advertising in relationship to the post-war developing urban setting. Abu-Shaheen examines how the idealized image of one culture interacts with the reality of another. The photographs in Familiar Stranger contemplate advertisements featuring female protagonists. The ads present hyper familiar typologies: fashion models and globally recognizable celebrities. In the context of the city of Beirut, these familiar women become incongruous strangers. The exhibition considers connections between the imagery we see in contemporary Beirut and the city’s colonial past. A supermodel is transformed from objectified into a symbol of cultural and economic power. The congestion of billboards reveals the city’s occupation by images of a diferent place and people, a euro-centric cultural dominance that asserts the necessity of its presence for the achievement of progress. Familiar Stranger ponders the ways that dominant culture becomes internalized and transformed. In an arena outside of its origin, the dialogue around the representation of women in western media takes on layers of new meaning, which become inextricably linked to the social history of a distant place.