Youssef Nabil

Youssef Nabil, born in Cairo in 1972, is a celebrated contemporary Egyptian photographer who produces elaborately staged photographs that resemble the melodrama of 1950s Egyptian cinema. During this heyday of Egyptian cinema, a popular technique employed was hand colouring of photographic stills for posters and advertisements. This produced idyllic images featuring unblemished actors set against an aura of romance that captivated audiences across the Arab world. Nabil, who now lives in New York, makes use of elaborate stage designs and hand painting to capture the essence of Egyptian cinema and address contemporary themes of beauty, sexuality and cultural identity. He uses both staged and documentary photography as a tool to re-contextualise his subjects, including himself, as characters in a film. Nabil finds appeal in strong female characters including Shirin Neshat, Tracey Emin, Zaha Hadid and Fifi Abdou – all featured in his work.

His craft began in the early 1990s when, after having his application to the Cairo academy of cinema rejected, Nabil cast his friends as characters in draft screenplays and photographed them. His work has been featured at numerous solo and group exhibitions in Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East.