Khalid Amakran: ‘The message you proclaim must reach the world as effectively as possible’

Photographer Khalid Amakran received a Talent Development Grant from the Creative Industries Fund NL in 2021. To him photography is much more than a pretty picture; a means of capturing the world, analyzing it and telling a story.

Talent Platform - Khalid Amakran

imaging in your own hands

Photographer Khalid Amakran researches the Moroccan-Dutch identity. Millennials are central to his work, he does, however include other generations. ‘Dutch society often portrays people with a Moroccan background negatively. Their stories are usually told in a reactive context: after an incident, we are called to account, and we have to defend who “we” are before a talk show audience, so to speak. There seems to be no room for the small, nuanced and everyday narratives.’ This negative positioning and perception have gained momentum since the turn of the century. News about Moroccan youths and stigmatising statements by politicians have played a role in this. Amakran wants to take this image and, as a spoken word artist, use language to set a different example. ‘I want to find a way to address what this politicisation does to people.’

autonomous position

After several years of commissioned work, including a weekly column in NRC Handelsblad, he now seeks a more autonomous position. Previously, he mainly focused on people and their environment. Now he wants to consider these elements separately, thus examining an individual’s situation while simultaneously paying attention to the influence of one’s surroundings. The environment and context in which someone grows up profoundly influences their personal development. ‘I am dealing with interpreting sociological systems and giving space to emotional motives.’ In this process Amakran does not see photography itself as an end, but as a means to capture the world, analyse it and tell a story. ‘I’m not interested in just pretty pictures. The messages and stories you convey should reach the world as effectively as possible.’

show shared experience

He focuses on three generations. Firstly, he concentrates on the parents who mainly came to the Netherlands as ‘migrant workers’. There has been little opportunity for them to share their experiences publicly. Amakran also looks at their children, who had to choose between their Moroccan and Dutch cultures. This choice, in which the two are mutually exclusive, plays a vital role in shaping the identity of Moroccan-Dutch millennials. ‘It is often said they cannot be completely free and have to hide a part of themselves wherever they are, so they always walk around with a secret.’ Amakran wants to shed light on this hidden facet. ‘I want to show that there is a shared experience, that there is a group with similar experiences that are therefore also legitimate. In this way I show the third generation that they have a future.’

Text: Vincent van Velsen