Sara Naim – Interview
Sara Naim is a photographer currently residing in Dubai; with a portfolio filled with a variety of striking imagery, her images focus on both the diaristic nature of photography whilst also using experimental formats to create abstract images with a much more conceptual approach.
Friend of Onegiantarm, Ellie Duckett recently got in touch to find out a little more about Sara’s approach to photography. Keep reading to find out more….
Could you tell us your name, primary occupation, where you’re from and where you currently reside?
Sara Naim, Photographer, Syrian and reside in Dubai.
How would you describe your work to someone who is not familiar with it?
I have two kinds of art practices that have major theoretical and aesthetic differences. One type of photography I practice is more conceptual and perhaps a bit abstract, where I often explore notions of the intangible. Within this subject, I have photographed dead skin cells, corneas of the human eye, sound vibrations, and light rays. My other art practice, which I have only recently begun, focuses more on the everyday. After three years of photography essays and conceptualizing my work, I moved to New York to intern for Ryan McGinley and was influenced by his, and his surrounding artist’s, work. I began my blog (saranaim.tumblr.com) which introduced my project Fifteen Fucking Fotos For Every Filthy Friday. I was going out quite a lot in New York and photographing, so every Friday I uploaded 15 new photographs onto my blog. It actually gained more attention than my conceptual work and I significantly improved in that style. At the moment, the two paths are still quite separate but I plan to merge them at some point.
What was your earliest work like and how has it developed?
When I first got into photography, my work was more photojournalistic, photographing what I saw. During my foundation at Chelsea College of Art and Design I kept to this style, imaging mostly people in their habitats, and often in third world countries or poorer areas within wealthier countries. During my BA in Photography I began to make things to be photographed, and my style dramatically shifted into more conceptual, art photography.
Can you explain your process?
In terms of my conceptual photography, I usually shoot on Medium Format (6×7) and then digitalize it by scanning on the Imacon or drum scanner. I then dust and do basic post-production. My Dawn to Dust series was shot on the Light and Scanning Electron Microscope, and my Corneas and Crops was done on the Topolyzer so those processes were different (though the Light Microscope allowed me to shoot on both Large and Medium Format). For the everyday stuff I’ve been shooting on my Contax G2 (35mm) and also scanning the negs. I usually don’t manually make enlargements as I don’t have a darkroom around, so I’ll C-41 print!
What subject matter inspires your work most?
Which artists/photographers/designers/illustrators excite you?
Paul Graham, Jeff Wall, Francis Alys, Ryan McGinley, Francis Bacon, Margiela, Frankie Nazardo, Geir Moseid, Guy Archard, Fan Chon Hoo, Jon Nash, Phillip Reed, Logan White, Mark Borthwick, Chris Cunningham…
What is the desired response to your work?
What story are you telling with the series ‘July 18th – August 30th’ ?
I went to London this summer for a work and play trip for 2 weeks. I extended 5 times and left after 6 weeks. I met amazing people and experienced a lot within that time, and this series documents it. I planned to make a zine out of it but it hasn’t happened yet.. But it’s definitely still on my list.
What inspired your ‘Still Life’ series, I particularly like the ones involving fish?!
I read about Martin Heidegger’s notion called Dasein and a beautiful and cheesy book called The Power of Now. I combined their ideas about time and the present moment by producing this series called ‘Still Life’. I wanted to describe a state where time did not exist, and that the present moment was the only true form of reality. Freezing still life was my way of doing so, as in the frozen state life forms do not decay. I photographed the process of the sculptures melting and breaking form, becoming in conflict with staying in the present moment. Fish carries the notions time with its history of evolution and how we’ve come to be.
From your series ‘Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata’ I see that you are interested in the connection between sound and vision, how intrinsically do you think the two are linked and what drew you to explore this?
I wanted to visualize the intangible and sound is a sense I have always been drawn to. Although vision and sound use different senses, they’re still apart of the same instrument. Have you ever heard a frequency or sound and saw a certain colour, pattern or image? Or studied the way someone dances to music and makes repetitive movements with their hands? They’re almost visualizing how sound has connected to them and vice versa. Cymatics also proves that sound vibrations can be visualized, so really there is no significant separation between the two except for where the senses enter the body!
You were one of the photographers involved in the Tim Andrews series ‘Over the Hill: A Photographic Journey’ can you explain the nature of the project for those who don’t know and what it was like to be part of it?
In my second year at LCC I produced a fictional narrative-based piece about a man who had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I advertised that I was looking for a model on Gumtree and Tim Andrew responded. He was actually exactly what I was looking for. I soon learned that he had a passion for photography but after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease TIm became unable to photograph. He thus became a model for photographers and was extremely involved in the photography scene in London. He selected photographs from over 160 different photographers that used him as a model, and produced the show ‘Over the hill: A Photographic Journey’. The show traveled to Guernsey Photography Festival and has been featured in The Guardian, The British Journal of Photography, and Rankin Live. He’s such a lovely man and full of life. He told me that Parkinsons was the best thing that could have happened to him.
You have recently been working on a project with human hair, is this still something you are working on and what inspired it?
I’ve always been interested in how we separate and categorize matter and ideas. I wanted to build hair sculptures that were molded into shapes (squares, circles, triangles, rectangles and spheres) and repeated in the colours of black, brown, dirty blond, light blond, and white. The final piece would collect a grid of 25 hair sculptures. I’ve collected lots of hair from salons and separated the colours but I left them in New York. I thought I was going to return after a month so I didn’t bring lots with me. Its been eight months and I am not sure when I’ll be back, maybe March! To be honest I get really repulsed by the project when I get covered in somebody else’s hair. Perhaps that’s why it’s taken a year to put them into boxes.
I read that you were planning on making a piece for Satellite Broadcast in Dubai, can you tell us a little bit about it?
My friend and lovely artist James Clar has a studio and art space called Satellite. Once a month he opens his doors to an artist and an evening of installation art called Satellite Broadcast. I will hopefully be having an evening early next year, projecting an areal video of the ocean onto the floor, surround the room’s four walls with videos of the ocean’s horizon, lightly fill the space with a humidifier, project ocean sounds, and fill the floor with sand. The idea is to fabricate a sensory experience, in this case of the ocean. I would ideally like to create various experiences in different rooms but for now its just one.
What are your plans and aspirations for the future?
I’m currently applying to Yale, Slade and the RCA for my MA Photography/Fine Art. If I do not pursue my masters for the next two years, I will be moving back to New York as I was granted an 01 Visa. It gives me at least 2 more years there, yeahhhhhhhh!
Interview Conducted by Ellie Duckett
To see more of Sara’s work go to – Sara-Naim.com