El Watan Profile: "I Photograph Algeria with a Camera Dating from the '50s"

Friday, September 16, 2016 | Algiers, Algeria

This weekend's edition of El Watan, Algeria's most widely read French-language newspaper, includes an interview and profile of me, covering everything from my first visits to Algeria, to my interest in other cultures and languages, to my photography.

My thanks go to the El Watan Week-End team, in particular reporter Faten Hayed, who conducted the interview and then adapted my rambling musings into a concise snapshot—and in much more elegant French than I ever could have managed on my own.

Below is an approximate English translation of the contents, with some links to further info:

Andrew Farrand, Photographer and Blogger: "I Photograph Algeria with a Camera Dating from the '50s"

Andrew Farrand made himself known by the production agency Allaqta, which produced a short video on his life in Algiers, titled “An American in Love with Algeria”. Expressing himself perfectly in the Algerian dialect, Andrew savors his Algerian life in the mode of an explorer.

By Faten Hayed

In what context did you first come to Algeria?
I came to Algeria in 2012 for my work. At that time, I was working for an American NGO that brought me to Algeria for different training missions. Over time, I began to make friends and discover the country. My path is fairly unique, given my interest in foreign cultures. I settled in Algiers in 2013.

Where does this interest come from?
I have been attracted to cultures other than my own for a long time. It goes back to high school, when I always studied French. It was my first window to the outside world. I was in a city in the United States that is a bit closed off, Baltimore, in the state of Maryland. Learning French gave me the opportunity to discover lots of other things in other cultures. As soon as I reached Georgetown University (in Washington, DC) to study international relations, I signed up for Arabic classes. Soon after, I traveled to Syria and Jordan to perfect my classical Arabic. After that, I worked in Washington in the area of international affairs and development cooperation projects. I was able to travel and see other countries, and develop this interest that I had in others.

How did you go about learning the Algerian dialect, deridja?
For a time I lived in Morocco, where I learned deridja through classes. Several years later, I found myself in Algiers. To transition from classical Arabic to the Algerian dialect, I just needed to mix all the linguistic influences that I had collected here and there. The two dialects of Algeria and Morocco are very close, which made it much easier for me!

What makes your photos unique?
I go out and take photos for pleasure. In reality, I am not a professional photographer, and I have never taken a photography class in my life. What distinguishes my photographs from others’ is that I use a different camera. I photograph Algeria with a camera that dates back to the 1950s, inherited from my father—a Rolleicord, manufactured in Germany. I take photos on film, which is both a slow and frustrating process. Nonetheless, the result is totally different from what you can get with digital. The look that’s visible in the photos gives a little nostalgia. When people see my photos, they are plunged into nostalgia for the Algeria of the 1970s, 1960s, etc. Even when I post them on Instagram, I don’t add a filter. On the contrary, it’s Instagram that strives to find filters to approximate the results from a Rolleicord.

Have you visited other regions of Algeria?
The Algerian desert is completely different from where I grew up and from where I live today. It’s very beautiful, a different world. Since I have to travel for my job, I have been able to visit Timimoun, Adrar, and also Constantine and Kabylie. I would like to visit the whole Hoggar region, since everyone tells me it’s stunning. In my opinion, if some Algerians have a strong interest in my photos, it’s because they haven’t had the chance to visit all the regions of their vast country. Also, I’m going to repeat the experience of 2016 by publishing a new calendar for next year, which will again illustrate my travels in the country.

When you walk around, do you feel a reticence on the part of the inhabitants about taking their pictures?
Yes, but I think it’s like that everywhere. It’s true that it differs from one country another, given the degree of mistrust that exists in the world today. But someone with a camera in their hands isn’t necessarily a threat. It can help to highlight countries, cultures, and a whole heritage. Algerians are very welcoming, and I like living here. But Algeria has much to offer the world, and could both benefit from and contribute to cultural exchange if it could open up more.

About Andrew Farrand
Though an amateur photographer since his teens, it was only in 2013 that Andrew took his first steps into film photography, using a 1951 Rolleicord that he inherited from his father and that quickly came to replace his digital camera. Since 2004, he publishes his photographs and various cultural reflections on his blog, www.ibnibnbattuta.com.

Go Further
Andrew Farrand has also contributed to the book Uncommon Alger, a guide to the city as seen by local authors, friends and lovers of the city. The book is available in several locations, including the Algiers airport, malls, and at Al Marhoon Gallery.

1. Double exposure in the streets of Belcourt (Algiers, 2015)
2. Lunch of sardines on the terrace (Algiers, 2013)
3. Sitting and chatting in the Casbah (Algiers, 2014)
4. At the barber’s, the maestro Hacène (Algiers, 2015)
5. A young woman in haïk at an event by the group Belaredj (Algiers, 2014)
6. The organizers of the group Belaredj (Algiers, 2015)

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