Since his first solo show earlier this year in his hometown of Sint-Niklaas, Moroccan-born, Belgian-raised Mous Lamrabat has been on our screens everywhere. The self-taught photographer was included among British Journal of Photography’s Ones to Watch, has been featured in publications such as MIM Magazine, The Last Magazine, and his portfolio is filled with an array of outstanding prop-embedded portraits and fake fashion campaigns with the likes of Gucci, Prada and Burberry. Next on his repertoire is the annual photography festival Unseen Amsterdam, where Mous will be showing his most recent works, and an exhibition in Abu Dhabi next month, Lagos Photo Festival and AKAA festival in Paris. “I’m very excited about the future,” he tells It’s Nice That. “It’s been a crazy year alhamdulillah (thank God), and I feel very blessed.”
It all started for Mous when he got his first camera, a second-hand piece that he bought for 25 euros. “I couldn’t afford more than that,” he says. “And from the moment I bought it, I don’t think there’s been a day that’s passed by where I haven’t taken at least one photo. I thank my family for their patience because they were my first subjects and I always had my camera in their faces.” A further pinnacle moment can be seen in his transition from interior designer to image-maker, propelled by a lack of creativity in the industry and the fact that projects took much longer than those of the photographic. Although, it wasn’t all that bad; Mous recalls his time studying as an interior designer as one that infused his “artistic thinking”, and one that surrounded him with many talented people. “I’m the kind of person that will fight for my place with the good ones,” he admits. “So, thank you, guys – they are the ones that pushed me to level-up on the artistic vibe.”
During the photographic process, what Mous sees – and then captures – really depends on his mood. His mixed heritage has in some ways defined his style, but Mous tends to see it as an element that’s more complicated. “I mean, your own mood can change daily; sometimes I really feel my Moroccan background and my brain sees things totally different compared to other days when I really feel my European background,” he explains. “I know it sounds weird but it goes like that.”
At first glance, his work seems to explicitly merge his Moroccan heritage with western cues – as seen in the placement of the Nike Swoosh or McDonald’s logo with traditional Moroccan dress and desert backdrops. This merging forms the crux to Mous’ work, within which he strives to see and portray things as one. “We live in a world where everybody separates and divides things. I don’t like that about today’s world – this is not the answer we need right now,” he says. “I know I’m only one man, but I want to combine things – combine cultures, combine visions, combine worlds. I want to combine instead of separate. I just hope that I can prove that the result of combining things can be beautiful and more interesting, so that’s why I started the movement ‘Mousganistan’.” As a term coined by the photographer and title of his first solo show, “Mousganistan” is used in conjunction with equality, understanding and how we can “always get better by working together.”
However, Mous’ work is less political than it is a means of him channelling what’s in his head. “The work that I make comes directly from my gut and brainwaves; it’s like a laser show that is synchronised with the music,” says Mous. “And in that analogy, I want to refer to my brain and my guts as the music, and my photos as the lasers.” In this sense, photography could be seen as Mous’ tool for making sense of the world around him, as well as for making sense of himself, his identity and the musical laser show going on in his brain.