Mazen Fayad Slips Into the Woman’s Lair
By: Leah Caldwell
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012
A boudoir is, literally, a “sulking room.” Though the French term has come to mean dressing room in modern vernacular, its 18th century usage connoted, “a small elegantly-furnished room where a lady retires to be alone or to receive intimate friends,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
The physical space of a boudoir, with its ornate furnishings and feminine associations, was so evocative that it soon conjured other less tangible sensations: sensuality, elusiveness, and the impenetrable lair of female sexuality. With Mazen Fayad’s “Boudoir” — his photographic debut at The Running Horse in Karantina — it is these latter associations that are implied.
The black-and-white photographs depict women — and only women, it seems — in various disheveled states, plopped atop rumpled sheets on a bed or knees fixed in broken-doll pose, cigarette in hand. At first glance, the seductive poses and voyeuristic feel seem too deliberate to provide anything more than a surface appeal, but the images escape the obvious by being blurred to the point of anonymity.
Fayad’s subjects’ eyes are black and hollow, their faces glowing and featureless. What appears to be an attractive woman from afar becomes a creepy wisp-like being up close. Fayad’s photos give the illusion of penetrating the boudoir, but its subjects remain obscured and detached. Only through references to global cities like Prague, London, and Beirut in the photographs’ descriptions does the backstory of Fayad’s six-year photographic pursuit of the female form crystallize.
Fayad is an executive creative director at JWT advertising agency and has directed glossy, impeccably shot advertising spots for places like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. “Boudoir” is a collection of his behind the scenes snapshots of females on various sets. It was only later on that he enlarged his photos and applied the Floyd-Steinberg dithering algorithm, a technique that simplifies images and produces the effect of a low-quality GIF.
Weirdly enough, given Fayad’s background, there’s a commercial brand of photography that’s often marketed as “boudoir.” Brides-to-be or women looking to boost their sex appeal wear flimsy lingerie and give their best pin-up girl pose for a hired photographer. In essence, the women are paying for a photographic package that constructs a private world that doesn’t exist. The fluffy pillows on the bed and lingerie are the markers of a glamour and sensuality that are rarely present on a daily basis. There’s little overlap between the crisp commercial boudoir images and Mazen’s “Boudoir,” but given the actual setting of his photos — commercial sets — there is the lingering feeling that the divide between private and candid or staged and public is not as clear as one would think.
Mazen Fayad's "Boudoir" is on display at The Running Horse in Karantina until July 25, 2012.