Youssef Nabil's self portraits are executed in muted tones of paint complimenting a nuanced approach to light and shadow. Each tightly cropped and guarded composition contains palpable pangs of longing and displacement and a heavy sense of yearning. Undercurrents of dreaming and death are prominent: Self Portrait, Vincennes, 2003 shows a life-less body stretched out under the green foliage of the Parisian woods, as if sleeping, or lying devoid of life.
Beautiful, conflicting and at times unsettling, Nabil's self-portraits offer an in-depth narrative with the intertwining of the eternal with quasi interchangeable states of death and slumber. While his
previous work has been heavily influenced by the photo-novellas which once accompanied the classic cinema, his self-portraits seem to more wholly embrace the genre.
It was perhaps Nabil's ambition to be a film-maker or his background in literature which formed the basis of his oeuvre. Here, sitters become performers, and the photographer becomes a director; mise-en-scenes are acted-out, stories embellished and captured, to then be drenched in Youssef's lavish style of beauty, sensuality and colour. Nabil began to turn the camera toward himself in 2003, in a series of self-portraits that inhabit a sense of the enigmatic. Alone in every photograph, with diverted gaze, Youssef glances out onto one scene after another, shifting location, time, while maintaining a singular focus . The result is a scene within a scene - a voyeuristic game in which the viewer is ensnared, captured by the subject's lonesome journey.
Born in Egypt in 1972, Youssef Nabil grew up in a cinematic Cairo intoxicated with the golden age of its stars. His works draw inspiration from his childhood memories of black and white films filled with glamour, elegance and melodrama.
Youssef Nabil's work has been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions at such venues as Les Rencontres Internationales de La Photographie in Arles. The British Museum, London. The Fries Museum, Leewaarden. Kunst Museum, Bonn. Michael Stevenson Contemporary Gallery, Cape Town. The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo. FotoFest Houston, Texas. Centre De Cultura Contemporanea De Barcelona. Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris. The Third Line gallery, Dubai. Centro Andaluz De Arte Contemporaneo, Sevilla. The Aperture Foundation, New York City. In 2003, he was awarded the Seydou Keita Prize for portraiture at the Biennial of African Photography in Bamako.