Youssef NABiL


Youssef Nabil was born in Cairo in 1972. He lives and works in New York. Nabil grew up in Cairo drenched in the cinema of the golden age of 'Hollywood on the Nile', and he recalls with nostalgia the glamour, ease, elegance and melodrama of this world of black and white film. Nabil's early attachment to the cinema lives on in his photos in a special fondness for mise en scène and choice of settings. He started his photography career in 1992, asking friends to pose for him and act in scenes that he wrote and directed, mostly about loneliness, death and sexuality. He took the photos in black and white, then hand-colored them using the old-fashioned technique popular in Cairo. "Until very recently you could still find hand-painted movie posters on the streets of Cairo, and in most houses a hand-colored black and white family portrait. This was so much a part of my world that I decided to incorporate it into my work and combine this old technique with my contemporary images." In 1992, Nabil met the Egyptian-Armenian studio portrait photographer, Van Leo, and they became friends. "It was a critical moment for both of us," says Nabil. "I was starting my career and he was thinking of closing his studio." There were a lot of similarities between them. "We both loved cinema, we both started practicing our photography from rooms in our apartments, and the first public we had was our families. But we also both wanted to leave and work abroad…" Van Leo encouraged Nabil to leave Egypt because he thought photography as an art form was not sufficiently appreciated there. They remained very good friends until Van Leo passed away in 2002. From 1992 to 1998 Nabil worked as a studio assistant for prominent photographers in New York and Paris. He returned to Egypt in 1999 and held his first solo show at Cairo-Berlin Art Gallery with the late Renate Jordan. The exhibition was titled Premiere and featured a selection of early work, includingMy Frida, Cairo 1996, a portrait made as a tribute to Nabil's favorite artist and muse, Frida Kahlo. Solo Exhibitions: 2007 Sleep in my arms, Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa. 2007 Portraits Self Portraits, The Third Line Gallery, Dubai, U.A.E. 2005 Youssef Nabil Portraits, The Third Line Gallery, Dubai, U.A.E. 2005 Realities to Dreams, Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cairo, Egypt. 2003 Pour un Moment d'Éternité, Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles, France. 2002 Youssef Nabil: Photo Cairo, Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cairo, Egypt. 2001 Obsesiones, Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, Mexico. 2001 Rétrospective, Centre Culturel Français, Alexandria, Egypt. 2001 Youssef Nabil, Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cairo, Egypt. 2000 Secret Side, Al Nitak Festival of Visual Arts, Cairo-Berlin Art Gallery, Cairo, Egypt. 1999 Premiere, Cairo-Berlin Art Gallery, Cairo, Egypt. Group Exhibitions: 2008 Far From Home, North Carolina Museum of Art NCMA, North Carolina, U.S.A. 2008 Last of the Dictionary Men, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle, U.K. 2008 Disguise, Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa. 2008 Regards des Photographes Arabes Contemporains, Musée National d'Art Moderne et Contemporain MNAMC, Alger, Algeria

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