This series was triggered by Jamel Shabazz’s portraits of young people, clad in street wear, proudly posing in the streets of New York between 1980 and 1989.
Mohamed Bourouissa and his friend Anoushkashoot set out to invent their own street photography at Châtelet-Les Halles, where the youth of the Paris banlieues converge. In his quest to portray his generation, the artist focused on people wearing Lacoste clothes in imitation of the rap group Ärsenik—a far cry from the image promoted by Lacoste’s own advertisements.
Nous sommes Halles is Mohamed Bourouissa’s first photographic series, bringing together portraits of strangers encountered in the street.
The origins of the project go back to Jamel Shabazz’s photographs, specifically those gathered in his 2001 book, Back in the Days, documenting the emergence of the hip-hop culture in New York in the 1980s: portraits of youths posing proudly in streetwear in Brooklyn, Queens or Harlem, armed only with their breakdance moves. Mohamed Bourouissa recognized himself in this work and decided to try his hand at photography.
Equipped with a second-hand Pentax 24×36 camera, bought especially for the purpose, he spent several months in the neighborhood of Châtelet Les Halles, a meeting point in the heart of Paris for a lot of young people from the ‘banlieues’.
As he said, “The project Nous sommes Halles is born because we could not find anywhere traces of our generation and our culture.
Today everybody is wearing Air Max. Vintage fashion is coming back strongly. It’s a blow. Châtelet neighborhood became fashionable while in the past suburban youth who used to come here for flirting, dating or buying clothes wouldn’t think about it that way. The relationship with image has changed, today it’s even somehow trendy to show that.”
Jamel Shabazz grew up on the streets of Red Hook, Brooklyn and since picking up his first camera at the age of fifteen, he has been visually representing urban life in New York. He has made a name for himself by capturing some of the most aura-induced and iconic images of the ’80s, depicting a time of transition and the emergence of a new lifestyle and culture whose relevance still resonates today.
As one of the key people to immortalize New York over recent decades, Shabazz’s quintessential and mesmerizing work continues to influence international fashion trends and global youth culture to this day.
Nous sommes Halles paints a portrait of a generation, that of the ‘caillera,’ a subculture of the early 2000s, with which he grew up. The series gives an account of caillera codes, identity and history at a moment when it begins to disappear.
Its members subvert the bourgeois norms of the Lacoste sportswear brand to invent their own style, against the grain of the preppy billboards with the alligator logo. In their own way, the caillera seem to have embraced the motto of the brand’s creator, tennis player René Lacoste: “Without style, playing and winning are not enough.”
In a similar vein, the children of hip-hop—then those of voguing—had appropriated the fashions of the time to reinvent themselves, wearing Kangol bucket hats, Gazelle sunglasses, Adidas shell toe shoes, and other attributes of a recomposed community which allowed its members, coming from low-income families, to break through the wall of invisibility hemming them in.
To people confined to the social peripheries, being part of a community opens access to a form of solidarity, recognition and creates a sense of belonging and collective pride. By shifting our perspective, Mohamed Bourouissa proposes another image of the banlieue, inviting us to rethink its identity.
Mohamed Bourouissa implicitly describes contemporary society by its contours. With a critical take on the mass media image, the subjects of his photographs and videos are people left behind at the crossroads of integration and exclusion.
Preceded by a long immersion phase, each of Mohamed Bourouissa’s projects builds a new enunciation situation. Unlike false simplistic media constructions, the artist reintroduces complexity into the representation of the margins of hypervisibility.
His work has been exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions, at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Centre Pompidou de Paris, the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the base in Frankfurt am Main, the Ball, Paris, the Haus der Kunst, Munich and the FRAC Franche-Comté in Besançon.
He has participated in the Sharjah, Havana, Lyon, Venice, Algiers, Liverpool and Berlin Biennales and the Milan Triennial.
In 2018, he was nominated for the Marcel Duchamp Prize. In 2017, he was selected for the Prix Pictet photography prize. His works belong to leading collections, including that of the LACMA in Los Angeles, the Centre Pompidou, the Maison européenne de la photographie in Paris, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.