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20 January 2016
Amnesty International has announced the death of French-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso "as a result of the Al Qaeda attack" last week. She was 33.
"Leila was shot twice, in the leg and thorax, but was quickly taken to hospital and was initially in a stable condition following an operation," Amnesty International said. "A medical evacuation was being prepared when she suffered a fatal heart attack."
She had been sent there by the organization on "a photographic assignment focusing on women's rights."
Yves Boukari Traoré, the director of Amnesty International in Burkina Faso, said, "Leila was an extraordinary young woman. We wanted to work with her because of her talent and her passion for helping women, girls and marginalized people tell their own stories."
The Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun called Alaoui "a passionate artist who knew how to detect reality behind appearances, how to show the splendor of a body behind the veil of prejudice."
Born in Paris in 1982, she studied photography at the City University of New York before working in Morocco, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. She made her home in Marrakesh and Beirut.
Her work has been exhibited at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Art Dubai and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, where her lasted exhibit, "The Moraccans" just closed. It has also been published by numerous magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times and Vogue.
According to her obituary in the New York Times, she said she "was influenced by the American photographer Robert Frank, who traveled across the United States in the 1950s recording life there with unsparing honesty."
The bio on her Web site, which also hosts her portfolio, notes:
Her work explores the construction of identity and cultural diversity, often through the prism of the migration stories that intersect the contemporary Mediterranean. Her images express social realities using a visual language that combines the narrative depth of documentary storytelling and the aesthetic sensibilities of fine art.
Discussing her series "The Moroccans," Alaoui said she didn't choose her subjects. Instead, she explained, she set up her studio outside on market days. "The people passed by and those who wanted stopped to have their photo taken. The only thing I asked of them was to face me," she said.
Unlike her murderers, they had no problem with that.