RAPHAEL SHAMMAA: Images For Their Own Sake | powerHouse Portfolio Review

Man in White Tee Shirt
Photograph © Raphael Shammaa

Café Scene
Photograph © Raphael Shammaa

Girl Texting
Photograph © Raphael Shammaa

The Bus Trip Home
Photograph © Raphael Shammaa

Woman With Dark Eyes
Photograph © Raphael Shammaa

"When we travel within, we leave the world behind for a while. The images in this series are of people on that sort of journey and in that sort of personal space. They may look at us but they don’t see us. They travel strictly alone, none but them seeing what they see, or feeling what they feel."

I was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up under the Farouk monarchy. At the ripe age of almost seventeen, having completed my secondary studies, I boarded a ship for Marseilles. I was on my way to study architecture in Paris, or so I thought. After a stint at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts and knocking around Paris for five years, I was introduced to fashion photography and fell in love with that world. I bid farewell to gloomy weather and my even gloomier prospects, and packed my bags  for photography school in Vevey, Switzerland. I completed the course in a brief six months and got myself hired as an apprentice to a respected photographer for two years; I was then hired by the French magazine Marie-Claire to assist in the famed Collections shoots in Paris. It was a heady experience. It had all gone so fast – and so well when a long forgotten immigration application appeared on my doorstep in the form of a visa to the US. My father had always said: GO TO AMERICA. So I did, leaving everything and everyone behind –  an accumulation of heartaches, hopeful beginnings and a mixed bag of memories. I landed in New York on November 26, 1961 at 5:30 PM, heartbroken and, in my wallet, two hundred borrowed dollars as my stake in a new life. Within a week the money was gone. It was Christmastime; job prospects were grim. I finally found work as a photographer’s assistant. Still dissatisfied with my lot, I decided on a new path forward, on broader avenues for potential income. But this time, by leaving photography behind, I was  in effect leaving myself behind. After further adjustments things opened up and I found myself free from having to think in terms of mere survival. I had finally arrived. All of that is behind me now and here I am free to use a camera again, looking at the world through one eye again, happy to show you my  stuff if only to catch a comment here, an exclamation there, happy to watch your eyes glide over my images slowly and silently. I refer to my work as Images For Their Own Sake; they refer to nothing and no one outside of themselves and simply refer to how grateful I feel to function as myself again.


1 comment:

PJ said...

I don't know his methods but I have a lot of mixed feelings about photographing people unawares. I've done it and had mixed results at best. Still, these are very intriguing portraits.