Elles x Paris Photo - Niecène Kossentini

Claire Gastaud

“I am a woman and I am part of a conservative society” Nicène Kossentini

“Fatouma”, Boujmal © Nicène Kossentini

“Sihem”, Boujmal © Nicène Kossentini

“Khadija”, Boujmal © Nicène Kossentini

How did you become a photographer? Would you define yourself as a one?

I discovered photography during a workshop at University where I was studying interior design. This lead me to follow a course in photography. I don’t define myself as a photographer, photography being just one of the media I use in my artistic work. But as the primary artistic form I’ve experimented and worked with, photography has –  by its essence and process –  influenced my artistic approach in all its forms.

What drives you as a photographer?

In my work, I question the temporality of recollection and memory, particularly through image and text. In our age of major changes, the notion of loss is very sharply felt. Whatever is in the process of disappearing is lasting over time: lasting in the present. And there is this movement of time that I try to represent and capture through images, in order to express what is disappearing and becoming absent.

Do you think there is such a thing as a ‘woman’s gaze’ in photography? Is this something you can relate to?

There are multiple ways of seeing, depending of every photographer’s differences. Using different ways of seeing as a tool for interpreting photography is one of the roads an art critic can explore when thinking about photography.

Has being a woman influenced your work as an artist in any way? 

I would say yes. I am a woman and I am part of a conservative society. Since the start of my career, it has led me, in spite of myself, into the fight of resistance.

I don’t consider myself as a militant or feminist, but I am aware that things are slightly different when you are a woman. Even if everything seems just and fair, I sometimes find myself in situations where I’m reminded that my rights are still not secured.

Do you live off your art?

I’m able to live mostly from my art but in parallel I teach in a film school.  This additional revenue means I don’t have to worry about having a regular income from the sales of my work and enables me to respect my creative rhythm which is sometimes quite slow.

Which authors have inspired you? Are there any women photographers among them?

The first artists who inspired me and stirred my passion for art are the Japanese architect Tadao Ando and the American composer and founder of minimalist music Terry Riley. In the field of photography, the authors who inspire me the most are Sophie Calle, Christian Boltanski and Roman Opalka.

Niecène Kossentini


Born in Tunis in 1976, Nicène Kossentini studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tunis, at the Marc Bloch University in Strasbourg and at the Sorbonne in Paris. She now lives and works between Tunis and Paris. Her videos, photographs, sculptures, paintings and drawings question the world’s current events. Whatever her approach, she never stops searching for aesthetics, beauty and poetry to confront violence. The spaces she captures read like metaphors, addressing the notions of presence, absence, oblivion and memory. In the course of her career, the artist has taken part in numerous collective exhibitions internationally (Marrakech Art Fair, Institut du monde arabe in Paris, the African Biennial of Photography in Bamako…) and has presented four solo shows, in Tunis (2009 and 2010), London (2011) and Madrid (2012).

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