Today we use photography for many reasons, but in essence, photography is about saving the things and moments that will no longer remain with us. It's the good things that disappear within grasp, and only the camera can hold on to them. That's exactly what Lebanese film photographer Clara Abi Nader tries to do. Her work is diverse, ranging from social reporting and documentaries to fashion, but her real specialization is being able to seize the moment.
Get to know more about Clara and her works here in Lomography Magazine.
Hi Clara! How are you doing these days? What's up with your film photography for 2018?
Hi Ciel! I'm doing great! All I wanna say is it's 2018 and film photography is still at its best! Never giving up on it!
You've always been keen on experimental themes and subjects as “On Hair and Women” and “Au Retour”. How do you come up with such thoughts and themes, especially on those two series?
I have been shooting for about 10 years now, at first very randomly, my friends my family, the good moments. Then as I gain in maturity, coming up with projects became very intuitive. Au Retour has been one of the main projects I've been working on the past few years. It is mainly a series of landscapes and sceneries that include architecture and people.
I grew up in Lebanon and moved to Paris about 6 years ago. It is only a few years after that I started to miss my country and one day after a visit I came back with a bunch of photographs shot on Redscale. I entered a competition and I won! Since that, I developed the series further and realized I am finally able to photograph my homeland and it all made sense to me. The project is slowly moving from land to sea until now I've been driving around and documenting the landscape but I also would like to travel by boat and document all of the Lebanese coastline. Using the redscale film made complete sense as well: I had used it in the past and didn't like it but for this project, I am completely blown by it. I love the atmosphere it adds up, the saturation I get sometimes and the warm tones. It enhances the feelings I feel and this is very important for the work. The series has been exhibited many times in Beirut and Sicily, next stop is Paris this September!
On Hair & Women started with one shot I took in Paris of a lady walking on the streets. She was beautiful and her hair looked perfect yet very simple. The idea also came from my experience of how I grew up as a teenager. I loved my hair, I was shy, it was super long and one day I cut it short. After all these years, I figured how much it is important for girls, teenagers, and women to look good and feel good. In a society where we are practically brainwashed every day by advertisements or any kind of visuals, be it from movies, music videos, fashion runways... I thought what is really the main thing that relates all women one to another? Hair of course! So I walked the streets for around two years and portrayed whoever got my attention with her hair. The project is not complete at all, I juggle in between a lot of works, and every series takes a lot of time and thought. So the progress slow and today my aim is to combine my anonymous portraits taken on the streets with real stories interviewed with other women that have had a struggle dealing with any type of problem that is related to their hair, such as: sickness, anxiety, rejection...
Your photographs look very ephemeral, especially in “Brèves De Rue”. May you share with us how you started this project?
“ Brèves de Rue / Clara dans la rue” is a very dear project to me. I have really developed my street photography when I got to Paris. I realized how much I loved being on the streets, wandering around with my camera, watching people, waiting for that moment, generally very mundane in the hope of making it look great on film. I once wrote:
“...mais petit à petit, tout en regardant autour de moi, les nuages s'évaporaient, observer le monde me redonnait du plaisir—je reprenais goût à la vie, à ma vie, qui est celui d'être là, d'être témoin de la vie des autres. Tu fais quoi dans la vie? me dit-on. Ah oui. Et tu photographies quoi? Eh bien ça, et ça aussi.”
Today after 6 years of accumulating steet scenes, I felt it wasn't enough like something was missing. So I have started taking notes of bits from random conversations I hear while on the bus, the metro, or just sitting on a bench... then I try to make a combination of a phrase with any of the photos I already have. Which results into a complete story all made up taken from real life! And it's fun! As I am extremely tired and bored from the virtual life that photography has been suffering from (social media) I have decided that a part of the project is about printing these images on a small format and leave them in public spaces. It is important that I bring my stories back to the streets where it came from.
Photography has always been about capturing the fleeting. For you, what are the 'moments' worth taking images of?
As I mentioned in one of my answers above, photography is about capturing fleeting moments but mainly telling a story, leaving a trace, a memory. Any moment is worth being captured, you've got to be ready for it, read the light, the movements and decide where to set yourself as a viewer. This is a big part of a successful photograph.
How does an analogue camera fulfill your style and vision?
Shooting on film allows me a lot of freedom within the limitations it has. 36 Frames or so, few shutter speeds to play with, sometimes none (depending on the camera) depth of field? Not to worry much about it too. I just love the process, the time, the surprise, the excitement, and sometimes the bad results too. I have cried over messed up films, it has happened that I ruined my exposure, that I didn't put my roll well and I kept shooting while I wasn't actually shooting hahaha, so you learn to accept mistakes and move on.
If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, artist or person, dead, alive or fictional, who would it be?
I have mainly worked by myself until now as I am a very solitary person. Though I think that I would love to work with a writer one of these days, collaborating with Charles Bukowski would have been great! And Jim Jarmush!
Describe to us—what's a day in the life of Clara Abi Nader?
A day in my life? Waking up with the sun on my face even if I'm still sleepy. Getting my coffee, working out a bit, play the radio, check on my emails and my meetings for the day. I generally go out for a walk around 4 or 6 pm!
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
Downtimes are tough to deal with. I start questioning everything I do and the reason I do it, like I lose the purpose of it. Most of my projects are long-term, they evolve with time, I am never sure of how it is going to end! As for new projects, I would like to go back to Sicily and travel around, been there already twice and it's never enough! Also perhaps hop on an expedition boat and sail across the seas!