“I wanted people to see my photographs as paintings”

Interview with Youssef Nabil, Egyptian photographer whose show "I Won't Let You Die" was exhibited at the Villa Medici in Rome

7th June 2009 by Marian Nur Goni

Cinema stars and artists’ portraits, self-portraits that, at times in a single picture, at times through a series of images, develop mysterious stories in which certain elements (a doll, a pond…) allow the reader to invent his/her personal story… Nostalgia, feelings of loss and sensualism combine to create an original universe marked by a bygone romanticism, in which form and content connect perfectly to evoke memory, the attempts to preserve moments of life and the faces of the course of time, oblivion and death, which are eminently photographic ideas…

Can you tell us what your first memories of photography, of photographs, are? My first introduction to photography was through cinema, the old Egyptian movies I watched on TV… Cinema is very central for Egyptians. Then in 1992, I took my first picture. I used to write everything down in a sort of a scenario of how I wanted my actors to behave, react, look, etc… I called some friends and we did it; it looked like a scenes from a movie… You worked with prominent worldwide photographers like David Lachapelle and Mario Testino. You found your own artistic path. What have you kept from this experience of working with them? These were two great experiences for me… Both are great photographers of our time with unique visions and style… David used to tell me: “If you look in your camera, and you see a picture that looks like someone else’s picture, don’t shoot it… Don’t take this picture… Shoot something else.” It was his way of telling me to always look for my own voice and inspiration… Mario always encouraged me, always showed his belief in me as an artist. He knew I was serious about my work since we first met… With both of them, it was like being in a family. “I lea...

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