Numéro Cinq is pleased to introduce the Algerian-born photographer (now living in France) Abdallah Ben Salem d’Aix. I became friends with Abdallah several weeks ago on Facebook, and was drawn immediately to his pictures of flowers, which reminded me of freeze-frames from a deeper, more vibrant, twenty-first century version of Stan Brakhage’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.
When I asked Abdallah to describe his process for the series of twelve breathtaking images that we are proud to feature this month, he wrote:
First, while walking to the site, the lake or on the mountain, I collect dead leaves, petals, plastics…everything tiny, which, in a brief moment, has a self sufficing and sweet “presence” while playing with the Light and the “perfume” of that day. Second, the “Theater”: the support (mirrors, sheets of papers, material) is my little scene or stage, under the shadow of a tree. Third, the Play: I just shake, animate; left hand, the support and the hints; right hand, the camera. Light is decisive; sometimes, I have to wait, while reading or in reverie until the twilight. Fourth, the Images: they have to be cute, strange, “farcesques,” easily lisible, pleasant.
Jacques Rigaut is not dead
—Photos by Abdallah Ben Salem d’Aix
A Brief Autobiography of Abdallah Ben Salem d’Aix
1949—I’m three years old. Death of Dad. “A hero.” During the WWII, he saved his French officer severely wounded. Medals, medals. 1962—End of the Algerian War. Family divided. Mother, a maid, preferred to follow her gentle employer, Mme Martin, and Mab, Mess and me, too. We, the children, have been Witness of the cruelties of the Adults of the Two Sides. Out of Hell! 1965-1969—Comedian, activist (Vietnam). During a year (Aix), training with J. Grotowski and his assistant Serge Ouaknine, (now in Montreal, and on FB). At night, drinking with the Ionesco’s (Madame Ionesco buvait du thé, elle). 1969-2001—Psychiatry—I work as a nurse, at first with psychotics, then the last ten years in the department for Alcoholics. 2001-2013—Travels. Algeria? No, thanks, no return, I prefer not. Shame. Mother was berber!…I prefer Greece, Crete, my future and last homeland, I hope. And the photos? I am an autodidact. No skill (to kill) (pardon), but rather a ritual with everything I find on my way, everyday. No studio, but always outside. Depressed when thunderstorms. Yes, the Wars. My heroes now? Robert Smithson, Annie Dillard, Goya, Chekhov…
Editor’s Note: You can follow Abdallah Ben Salem on his Tumblr blog here or friend him on Facebook here.
Eric Foley holds an Honours BA in English and Literary Studies from the University of Toronto and an MFA from Guelph University. He has been a finalist for the Random House Creative Writing Award, the Hart House Literary Contest, and the winner of Geist Magazine and the White Wall Review’s postcard story contests. His writing can be found online at Numéro Cinq and Influencysalon.ca. He lives in Toronto and divides his time between his writing and teaching at Humber College
- Editor’s Note: Abdallah Ben Salem is one of those NC readers who have really made the effort to join the community. He friended us on Facebook and then shared many NC posts on his own wall. He “liked” and commented regularly. When a person makes that kind of gesture, NC often reaches back. In this case, the results are spectacular.↵
Bonjour Abdallah, je suis heureux de te retrouver 50 ans plus tard… via ton magnifique travail plasticien…
Tu as fait un beau chemin et souvent j’ai pensé à toi et notre Balcon de Jean Genet chez Bourseiller à Aix…Je te salue frère!