Thursday, 16 February 2012

sparse/beautiful: meet photographer rasha kahil

I’ve been a fan of Rasha Kahil’s photography ever since she published ‘XI and La Guele du Monde’, a tender collection of portraits that accompany stories of sexual encounters.

Kahil studied at the Royal College of Art in London. She's exhibited at GSK Contemporary at the Royal Academy of Arts, the British Film Institute, The Running Horse (Beirut) and the Empire Project Gallery (Istanbul), among other places. She always shoots on film.

Last week we discussed taking off your clothes in people's houses, personal space, Roger Ballen, and Marina Abramovic:

I love your hand-numbered publication ‘XI and La Gueule de Monde’. Do you have plans to make a sequel or another publication on a different theme?

I wouldn't do a sequel to ‘XI and la Gueule du Monde.’ It was a one-off publication, though I continue to work with the same themes in other work. But I do love producing books, so it is always an option if I feel that a particular project would work well in that format. My photo series ‘In Your Home’ is also a limited-edition book I developed recently because I felt it important that the whole series be presented as one package -only a small selection from the 36 images is usually exhibited in galleries.

For your self-portraits in various houses,’ In Your Home,’ how did you pick the houses? Are they all your friends’ places? Is it something you planned or do you spontaneously wander into a room and take off your sweater and things?

For ‘In Your Home’, I could never pick the houses in advance, it was just a matter of luck, being left alone for long enough for me to be able to disrobe and take the self-portraits without the host's knowledge. That's why the project took so long to develop (2008 to 2011). Sometimes I wouldn't get the opportunity for a few months, then suddenly I’d get shots done in 3 different homes in a week.

How much does a space inform your work? Is your work more about the person in the space or does the space act as its own character?

I've always been interested in the relationship between a person and the space that they create for themselves, particularly a domestic setting, which is where a lot of my portrait work takes place. The space itself becomes an extension of the sitter themselves. Or in the case of ‘In Your Home’ it is the clash between my body and that of another's personal space that becomes the focus and the point of tension in the image.

Recently you shot Antonio Banderas for Harrods. Any other exciting or high-profile projects coming up?

Shooting Antonio Banderas was a chance commission that I thoroughly enjoyed! I was commissioned by the production company of his new movie Black Gold. It thought it would be tricky to connect with such a high-profile persona who is so used to being photographed, and having them interact and collaborate somehow in such a short period of time. But he was such a great guy to shoot, very down-to-earth, participative and willing to try out things for the lens. I really enjoyed the whole session!
Do you have a favourite photographer?

I really admire the work of South African photographer Roger Ballen. Each single image he produces is imbued with such emotion and depth. I also really love the work of Viviane Sassen and Katy Grannan.

Who would you like to collaborate with?

I'd love to participate in one of Marina Abramovic's pieces. It would probably be one of the scariest most challenging things ever, she's such a legend, but I'd completely immerse myself in whatever project she'd have up her sleeve.

Rasha Kahil’s work is currently on show at Maddox Arts in London (9th February-31st March.)