Bubuy Balangue (Philippines) and Nassim Ghrayeb (Dubai, UAE) are our artists for the PRESENCE Exhibit, which runs up to August 28. Here are snippets of a brief interview with both of them.
When did you know that you would like to be a professional photographer?
Nassim: I tend to not think of myself as a professional photographer, as much as someone who finds their creative, emotional and spiritual expression in photography, the exact moment I knew that photography was the vehicle for me was when I hand printed a picture at a black and white development course about 14 yrs ago, I was instantly hooked by the fact that what I saw was not a reflection of reality, but an expression of my mood and imagination.
Bubuy: There wasn't any epiphany of sorts. I just felt photography was right for me. I realized that capturing images is the art form I love. For some it may be writing, for others painting. For me, seeing things differently and capturing it on film tickled my fancy; and being a film major help a great deal. I love the challenge of presenting things in a different light and freezing a moment and getting an emotion from the viewer.
What do you try to capture when you take photographs? or What would you like to tell us about your art?
Nassim: I think what is most prevalent in my work, and the intention that I generally hold is an expression of vulnerability, intimacy and humility, this is either in the subject, or in the way I approach it, or in both.
There is no question in my mind that I view life in a very poetic manner, and i think that is visible in my work, their is I think a certain romantacizing of the subject. I am almost never objective, my presence and influence whether actual or metaphorical is always there in the final image.
This could be seen as something of a fantasy, but I see it more as an expression of my reality, and what I create in my world not just my photographers through the impact of my presence.
Bubuy: I love capturing the less noticed, the mundane, the everyday hustle and bustle, the culture. I'm more of a Bresson fan than an Adams.
Nassim, what is it like being an artist in an Islamic country?
Nassim: This rarely comes up as a consideration for me given that Dubai is multi-ethnic city that is fairly open minded for the most part. It becomes a consideration in two circumstances generally, the first being that photographing people in public places generally frowned upon, however, often it is not hard to charm one's way into it (unless they are visibly conservative). The second difficulty relates to what kind of work can be exhibited, some of my work is overtly sensual, and hence is never likely to be displayed in Dubai, however most of the other works is feasible. The truth is however, intimacy, vulnerability and humility are universal as themes to human being and can be found everywhere you are prepared to look, the key is paying attention.
Bubuy, you work with motion pictures. Do you think that affects the way you make your art?
Bubuy: Yes it does. Besides, motion pictures are just a series of still images made to look like they are moving. And each frame is different for the previous and the next. So, whenever I photograph something moving, I imagine it first and anticipate which frame will make it look unique when still.
Do you both always bring a camera wherever you go or do you plan it when you are taking photographs?
Nassim: I almost have a camera with me, that said, I do generally think ahead (not much planning) to whether the activity I am engaging in will present me more opportunities than usual to take pictures. Given I am mostly photography the unfolding of my life, my subject is constantly there, hence I need to always have my camera. On a few occasions I will set up and be more directive with a shoot, but these are rare occurences, and even in those situations the plan often goes out the window as I co-create with my subject in the moment.
Bubuy: Yes. Everyday I have my camera with me. One will never know what is going to happen. And being there with a camera in tow, when something comes up helps to take that decisive moment so to speak.
Do you buy other photographers' works?
Nassim: I am obsessed with looking at photographs, I think to be a photographer you must love and appreciate the work of others, and there are so many amazingly gifted photographers out there whose work one can appreciate. Appreciation of photography and hence developing as a photographer is a little like wine tasting, you have to develop your palette, and the only way to do so is to sample different wines in oder to appreciate the differences and subtelties of it. It is the same when viewing a photo, an experienced eye will see and appreciate a lot more than an inexperienced one.
That said, I do buy the works of other photographers, and mostly I buy their books, my home is littered with hundreds of photobooks and I can get lost for hours in them. Now with web, there is even more access available, though I still do prefer to look at the physical prints than see them on a screen.
Bubuy: Honestly, no. I ask my photography buddies to give them to me, autographed. Really! I would do the same for them.
For you, what is the most important part of the photographic process (i.e. composing the picture, fixing your camera settings, post process editing, printing)?
Nassim: The technical aspects of photography hold very little interest to me, that said I think one needs to master all the aspects mentioned here in order to forget about them and not be concerned with them when taking pictures, they become second nature like driving or tying your shoe lace, you don't actually think about th technical steps, you just get on with it. I think the most important part of my process is my emotional state and the my ability to be completely present to the moment, because with the kind of pictures I take, that moment is all that exists until the next moment arrives and then its something completely different. I think other than camera and software skills, the most important skill a photographer needs to have and develop, and probably the hardest to master, and I feel I have still a long way to go with it is the art of editing down ones work in a cohesive selection, both in terms which photos tell the story you are trying to tell or create and how these photos interact with each other.
Bubuy: For me, seeing the image in one's mind even before clicking. The picture is supposed to be there in your mind's eye. That is where the image starts. The camera is just a tool to have the image transcend into a tangible form. No more. No less. In short, seeing the image is the only photographic process one needs. That's why we have the idiom 'photographic memory'.
See the works of the artists before the exhibit ends. Hope to see you all soon!