“Due to civil unrest, I left my birth place at a very early stage in my life, and have lived since in numerous countries that I called at some point home. Issues of belonging, sense of self and identity are dear topics to my heart that I have been dealing with in different projects.”
Camille Zakharia (born in 1962 in Lebanon) is a conceptual photographer, currently based in the Kingdom of Bahrain. He studied photography at the NSCAD University Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada). Camille Zakharia has received several international rewards for his work, among them 3 First Prize in the “International Photography Awards”. A central topic in his photography is the search for identity in times of globalization.
Interview with Camille Zakharia
Camille, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
Canon AE1, photographing the scars of the Lebanese Civil War onto the buildings of Beirut.
Why did you become a photographer?
Freezing moments that shape who we are in still images has always been of great interest to me.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a powerful tool that teaches people how to see the world.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
I am mostly influenced by traditional Documentary Photographers, including Eugene Atget, August Sander and the Bechers. Their pure approach to the medium inspired me to do the same in the projects I have carried while documenting the fast changing world in the Middle East. I am equally inspired by contemporary photographers like Jeff Wall and Alec Soth.
Your favorite photography quote?
“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.”
How would you describe your photographic style and creative process?
Some projects are pure documentary including”Coastal Promenad” the photographic essay of “Reclaim”, a project that won Bahrain the Golden Lion Award at the 12th Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2010, “Sharjah History Images” supported by Sharjah Biennale Production Grant, “Al Bilad” a commission for the British Council for a major touring exhibition titled “My Father’s House”.
Other projects are photomontages, including “Markings”, which was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize and exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2009, and photocollages which include “Elusive Homelands”, “Cultivate Your Garden”, “Division Lines” and ongoing project “Belonging”.
My work is mostly calculated and less intuitive. I do several studies before embarking into the making of the final work. The creative process for the montages and collages can be best described as Deconstructive and Reconstructive.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
Keep photographing, learn from what seems to be a bad experience, take constructive criticism into consideration, venturing beyond the norm, carry out a project regardless how simple the concept may sound, share your images with larger audience when possible. These are few of many advice that I have adopted to achieve where I am at right now.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
Due to civil unrest, I left my birth place at a very early stage in my life, and have lived since in numerous countries that I called at some point home. Issues of belonging, sense of self and identity are dear topics to my heart that I have been dealing with in different projects. This I consider the main axis of my work.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Not to postpone until tomorrow what can be achieved today.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
Specific to a place and time, created for a particular reason and yet has a universal message.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
The world around me plays an important role inspiring me to produce thought-provoking projects. It is a rich source that has continuously challenged me to keep developing from one project to another.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
Rolleiflex 2.8GX and Rolleiflex 6008 integral.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
Magnum Photos remains one of most interesting websites on photography.
What photography book would you recommend?
“August Sander: People of the 20th Century” by Susanne Lange and Gabriele Conrath-Scholl.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Believe in yourself, perseverance, honest approach to your subjects, and most important: Never, never, never give up.