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This exhibition attempts to tell the story of Algeria. The everyday painful, happy or difficult times. It is life in Algeria as seen through my press photographer’s telephoto lens.

In 1990, when I was just a beginner, events led my career to take a different, but interesting, direction. It was then that I realized my special role : that of being a eyewitness.

The purpose of this exhibition was to explain my relationship with my country – to talk about my Algeria. It was intended to show that it is difficult to remain neutral when it is one’s very flesh that is being slashed. The goal was also to say that Algeria, in the same way as a woman who is marginalized because she is different from others, is striving to find a solution to its problems, on its own. The country is learning to be strong and to weather all sorts of storms.


Selecting the pictures was a difficult exercise. In my view, all the photos I have taken over the last 13 years depict, relate, document or explain Algeria. Algeria, a country where tears merge into laughter and losses into victories, a country that can cry out but can also keep silent, a country that knows so much… Equal to other countries, and sometimes more. A country that has preserved its beauty despite attempts to render it ugly. A discreet country that hides its pain in order not to embarrass others, and that is asking you to give it freedom to grow. Perhaps all this country needs in order to progress is a little trust.

Bitter memories come back to the fore. I remember a time when we feared our own shadows. Times when terrorism was the daily fare in Algeria, and when no one was spared. And although today we are still frightened at times, we have come to the realization that life has overcome, but more importantly, that we are no longer alone. Today, countries around the globe are experiencing the same fear. If only it hadn't taken so long for the world to understand Algeria, the generous country, much pain could have been spared.

When I was just starting out, never would I have thought that I would experience intense moments that would shape the rest of my life. Events propelled me far from the untrammeled path my parents wanted for me. Eventually, I felt concerned by everything. Everything that related to Algeria came to form part of my world; I became interested in everything, whether good, bad, harsh or easy.

I am not suffering from acute patriotism, nor from excessive professionalism. It is just that my heart is suffused with love for my country. My life is shaped by its joys, its disappointments, its fortunes and misfortunes. I have constantly had to a fight with myself to remain neutral in my work, to be but an eyewitness.

I have often been asked why I take so many risks. I have also been plagued with the question : "What is it like to be a woman photographer in Algeria?". I have never understood the first question. Everyone had to assess the risks entailed by going to work, to the market, or to school. Going out to had become an act of bravery. As for the second question, I simply answer that when I was doing my job, I was neither woman nor man, I was only and exclusively a photographer.

Zohra Bensemra

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