Cyn­thia Ghous­soub: Fram­ing Vis­ual Ex­pe­ri­ences

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Cyn­thia Ghous­soub en­tered the world of pho­tog­ra­phy to cap­ture the ab­stract re­al­ity of our world and to bring out thought pro­vok­ing ideas that drive the viewer to con­nect the dots. The vis­ual di­a­logue that en­sued has been on­go­ing ever since and has got­ten her closer to who she is as a per­son. In the fol­low­ing fea­ture, Arabad talks to Ghous­soub about her jour­ney and the un­ex­pected turns it has taken so far.

Tell us a lit­tle bit about your­self and what led you to pho­tog­ra­phy?

As a child, I had the op­por­tu­nity to grow in a cre­ative en­vi­ron­ment where art had no lim­its and was ex­pressed in var­i­ous medi­ums. Ex­posed to hand craft­ing, per­form­ing arts, jew­elry de­sign, pho­tog­ra­phy, paint­ing, and stained glass un­cov­ered a world of beauty, ex­pres­sion, and mys­tery that I wanted to be a part of. I con­stantly took pho­to­graphs as a teenager, but I never thought that I would one day be­come a pho­tog­ra­pher. Dur­ing my un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies at Notre Dame Univer­sity (NDU),

I couldn’t de­cide on one ma­jor and found my­self con­stantly chang­ing my in­ter­est from Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Arts to Ad­ver­tis­ing and Mar­ket­ing. In 2012, when pho­tog­ra­phy was in­tro­duced as a new ma­jor, I trans­ferred in­stantly with­out any hes­i­ta­tion or re­gret. I grad­u­ated in 2015 with a Bach­e­lors De­gree in pho­tog­ra­phy. With the help of great men­tors, lec­tur­ers, na­tional/in­ter­na­tional pho­tog­ra­phers, field­trips, work­shops, and ex­hi­bi­tions my in­ter­est and pas­sion for the medium grew.

What’s the best part of be­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher?

To me, pho­tog­ra­phy has the abil­ity to cap­ture the ab­stract re­al­ity of our world. It shapes an un­de­ni­able re­al­ism that takes us the view­ers into a jour­ney that is equally con­tro­ver­sial, thought pro­vok­ing, beau­ti­ful, and es­sen­tial. It is a form of ther­apy that al­lows me to ob­serve, un­der­stand, and con­nect with the world around me.

What’s the hard­est part of your job?

Ex­pos­ing peo­ple’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity is not easy, as my ex­pe­ri­ence grows, I hope to achieve a vis­ual di­a­logue that in­spires, and pos­i­tively im­pacts change.

If not a pho­tog­ra­pher who you would have been?

Dancer, mu­si­cian, foren­sic sci­en­tist, peace ac­tivist… Who knows? Life is full of sur­prises.

How would you de­scribe your style and how did you de­velop it?

It is quiet hard to la­bel or de­fine a sin­gle style that I might be fol­low­ing. My pri­or­ity is to de­velop au­then­tic vis­ual se­ries that de­pict in­di­vid­ual, so­cial, and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences. My work is ver­sa­tile us­ing dif­fer­ent tech­niques that serve the sub­ject or theme I am pho­tograph­ing.

Which pho­tog­ra­phers in­spired you most, and how did they in­flu­ence your think­ing, style, and ca­reer path?

The works of in­ter­na­tional pho­tog­ra­phers Larry Clark, An­dres Petersen, Nan Goldin, and An­toine D’agata re­formed my per­spec­tive on raw, hon­est, and ta­boo nar­ra­tives that por­tray in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ences. Le­banese pho­tog­ra­phers Pa­trick Baz, Dalia Khamissy, Rasha Kahil, Myr­iam Dalal, and Car­o­line Ta­bet taught me courage, cu­rios­ity, cre­ativ­ity, and most im­por­tantly they taught me how to re­ally look and an­a­lyse a pho­to­graph. I hope to meet more in­spir­ing artists as I de­velop my knowl­edge in pho­tog­ra­phy and the art scene both in Le­banon and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

How do you ed­u­cate your­self to take bet­ter pic­tures?

Re­search/trial and er­ror and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion are key fac­tors to tak­ing bet­ter pho­to­graphs. They ex­pose me to a new way of por­tray­ing a sub­ject that is vis­ually valid and yet very elab­o­ra­tive.

One of to­day’s main dis­cus­sion points amongst pho­tog­ra­phers is about the use of dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy; do you use dig­i­tal cam­eras? What is the in­flu­ence of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy on your pho­tog­ra­phy?

Dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy has come so far; it en­ables peo­ple who don’t have ac­cess to film to cre­ate. With that said, the

To me, pho­tog­ra­phy has the abil­ity to cap­ture the ab­stract re­al­ity of our world.

cam­era is just a tool used as a ve­hi­cle that aids in com­mu­ni­cat­ing your ideas. Both ve­hi­cles are valid. Pho­tog­ra­phy is mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary and can be ex­pressed in dig­i­tal, film, in­stal­la­tions, video, and paint­ing.

What kind of mode do you go into— what does it feel like to be in­side your cre­ative in­spired mind when pho­tograph­ing a con­cept or idea you are pas­sion­ate about?

It’s hard to de­scribe what goes on in my mind. The con­stant ob­ses­sion over a con­cept I’m work­ing on takes over my life.

What is the favourite im­age you have shot re­cently? Can you de­scribe its cre­ation in re­gards to lo­ca­tion, light­ing, com­po­si­tion, cam­era set­tings etc. also your thoughts when cre­at­ing the im­age and what it means to you?

My favourite body of work so far is en­ti­tled “Frag­ments Of Time’, a selfpor­trait se­ries com­prised of 20 images ex­plor­ing themes re­lated to the self, au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal nar­ra­tive, mem­ory and iden­tity. Us­ing spon­ta­neous body lan­guage, slow shut­ter speeds and a lot of trial and er­ror re­sulted in multi ex­po­sure pho­to­graphs that com­mu­ni­cate my story.

What makes a good pic­ture stand out from the av­er­age?

A pho­to­graph that stands out is one that crosses all lan­guage bar­ri­ers. It in­spires em­pa­thy and a new level of un­der­stand­ing be­tween peo­ple. Au­then­tic­ity and the com­bi­na­tion of el­e­ments that make up the frame is what makes a pic­ture unique.

What ex­actly do you want to say with your pho­to­graphs, and how do you ac­tu­ally get your pho­tos to do that?

There are so many things I’d like to shed light on in my pho­to­graphs. With time, and ma­tu­rity I will have the chance to for­mu­late all my thoughts into dif­fer­ent se­ries. It starts with for­mu­lat­ing the idea, then re­search­ing it vis­ually and link­ing it to im­agery with anal­y­sis and ref­er­ences.

What has been your most mem­o­rable ses­sion/as­sign­ment or maybe you can tell us about a project you've felt re­ally con­nected to and why?

The three years I spent at univer­sity were un­for­get­table. Work­ing close with friends and men­tors who sup­ported my vi­sion left a big im­pact on the per­son I’ve be­come. ‘Frag­ments Of Time’ is the se­ries I iden­tify with the most. It will be ex­hib­ited at KAF Gallery Ashrafiyeh this Novem­ber mark­ing the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer as a pho­tog­ra­pher.

Do you get to work with ad agen­cies on spe­cific as­sign­ments? If so can you speak of one project of such? If not would you like to shoot for ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns?

I haven’t been com­mis­sioned to work with any agency yet. I’m al­ways open to new ex­pe­ri­ences that will help me im­prove, de­velop and grow as a pho­tog­ra­pher and an artist.

Do you see your­self as a pho­tog­ra­pher many years down the road?

This is just the be­gin­ning of my jour­ney to be­com­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher. I in­tend to con­tinue in post­grad­u­ate stud­ies to fur­ther my knowl­edge in pho­tog­ra­phy and art. It’s a very dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer, be­cause one can never know when an op­por­tu­nity presents it­self.

What ad­vice do you have for pho­tog­ra­phers just start­ing out?

The jour­ney we em­bark on can be dif­fer­ent for each of us, I am not in a po­si­tion to ad­vise any­one here but what I can tell you is this: The best ad­vice I’ve re­ceived is from pho­tog­ra­pher, and teacher Noel Nasr who taught me that ded­i­ca­tion, and pa­tience are es­sen­tial to grow and ma­ture as a pho­tog­ra­pher.

From the se­ries 'Frag­ments of Time'

From the se­ries 'Frag­ments of Time'

From the se­ries 'Frag­ments of Time'

From the se­ries 'Frag­ments of Time'

From the se­ries 'Con­crete Jun­gle'

From the se­ries 'Frag­ments of Time'

From the se­ries 'Ter­ror­less Beards'

From the se­ries 'Evan­ish'

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