Ali Chraïbi, Modern Times, from PRIVATE 36 – AFRIKA[M]odern Times consists of eighty-five black-and-white images taken in soap and oil factories in Ain Harrouda and Ain Sebâa, suburbs of Casablanca. This poetic and metaphorical series documents the lives of factory workers in their current political and historical conditions, and at the same time employs an overarching symbolic theme that refers to the natural cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.
Modern Times begins with close-up portraits of the factory workers: the dignity and inscrutability of their faces is emphasized by a close attention to detail. Then, as the camera is pulled back to incorporate the workers’ surroundings, the darkened, blurred background begins to take shape, resolving itself into factory walls with switches and machinery. The figures often appear as shadows or ghostly reflections in glass, becoming inseparable from and engulfed by the machines that they operate.
The final pictures offer a fleeting glimpse of freedom, overshadowed by the inevitability of the next working day. The juxtaposition of the natural human life cycle with the forced structure and mechanical routine of the factory reminds us of the uneasy coexistence of modernity and nature.