Karim Skalli

University: Norwich University of the Arts

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Narrative

Websitewww.karimskalli.com

Artist Statement: Familiar is a project exploring my identity through formative spaces. I wanted to investigate how the spaces I have grown up with have had an impact on me growing up, especially in terms of understanding and celebrating my mixed heritage. The spaces involved are all relevant to my family and relevant to my upbringing. My Mother is English and my Father Moroccan and I want to photograph how, even know miles apart, spaces in these countries are as relevant and familiar to my identity.  

I am currently photographing in England but I am hopeful of visiting Morocco in May to try and finish the project off. It’s an ongoing project and will be for a number of years as I aim to understand my relationship with space, identity and familiarity.

From the series Familiar

From the series Familiar

Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I graduated from Norwich University of the Arts in 2016 with BA Honors in photography and I'm still here this year studying my Masters.

What are some standout moments from your time at university? There’s a number of standout moments, obviously, the social aspects of university were standout as well as the graduation itself but in terms of my studies I’d say just being surrounded daily by like-minded people who have a shared interest in photography, I enjoyed going in to university everyday and being around these people.

From the series Familiar

From the series Familiar

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? That’s a difficult one. I don’t think my work falls under one particular genre just yet. It definitely follows a narrative form but also has elements of editorial, intuitive and documentary in it as well. But narrative would probably be my answer if I had to have one.

What themes do you find yourself exploring? I tend to look at space a lot and what these spaces represent; whether that’s identity or emotion. I’m also interested in the idea of intuitive photography and the idea of observing our material surroundings. However, ultimately, the main theme I explore is identity, I’m interested in how we can be represented and how I can explore identity through something different than a portrait.

From the series Familiar

From the series Familiar

As this series is ongoing for you, how do you think you will know when it's finished? With projects like this you don’t really know until you know. I never plan on giving my projects an end date because that makes me rush it and I always end up wanting to return to it. However, there comes a point when you can’t do any more to it and you’ve done what you set out to do, you have a good amount of imagery that represents what you are trying to say and doing more would only hinder the project and complicate it. You have to know when to stop but usually it’s a feeling, a feeling of contentment with it.

This series is allowing you to revisit places from your childhood as well as reflect upon certain moments and spaces significant to your upbringing, do you think in the future you'll look back and see this work as being another one of those moments you'll focus on? Potentially. I think it has the potential to influence me for further projects and influence the way I explore spaces and photography in general. Hopefully I can look back on it as a successful project.

 
From the series Familiar

From the series Familiar

 

Do you think the process of making this work is shaping your future? Are you discovering new things about yourself? Definitely. I’ve discovered that research really does dictate the journey. I find it hard to just go straight into a project, I need at least a month or so to start a project to properly research and plan what it is I’m shooting. I’ve also discovered that reflection is really important, you have to really reflect on the work you’re creating and analyse it in a completely unbiased way to narrow down images for your project or portfolio. I’m also finding how important getting your work out there as much as possible is, getting as much exposure as you possibly can to get your name out there.

Can you recommend us any reading around your subject? There’s a number of theorists that look at the idea of identity, theorists such as Hami Bhaba, Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall. All pretty hard readings but all very relevant about the idea of identity, especially cultural identity and heritage.

Is there a particular reason as to why the lighting in your images is so dark? I think that style has just come over time and I have stuck with it, I’m drawn to low light and how it creates a mood, especially within interiors. It also creates a sense of the unknown; it makes the viewer question what they’re looking at.

From the series Familiar

From the series Familiar

What motivated you to progress on to study for an MA in Photography? I wanted to learn more about my own work. I didn't think at the end of my BA, although I learnt a lot, I understood my work as much as I would have liked to and an MA is all about understanding and being able to talk about your work confidently. It was also an opportunity to work with my tutors once again, who I feel I can learn a lot from.

What equipment do you primarily use to make work? Do your choices change or are you committed? I don't use a lot of equipment at all, mainly just the camera and a tripod every now and then. I tend to shoot film as it allows me to think about my shots and it also gives me the aesthetic I like to create. I'm pretty committed to film with personal project but with certain commissions I'll use digital because it's a cheaper option.

Have you any ideas as to what the outcome of this series might look like? Would it be prints on the wall or a book with text? At this stage I'm aiming to just complete the series but once it comes closer to the end, I'll consider making a book with text, I enjoy the process of making books and have done so in the past so that's something I'll look in to, I'll also exhibit it as much as I can and hopefully sell some prints along the way.

 
From the series Familiar

From the series Familiar

 

Can you share any tips for getting your work seen? Have you discovered any useful resources whilst in Norwich? Get it out there as much as possible, email people, submit to magazines and competitions and I think importantly nowadays be active on social media. I cant really think if I have In Norwich, the university library is pretty resourceful for inspiration and ideas.

What work are you currently making? I'm currently working on this project, Familiar, for my MA project, I'll be travelling a lot in the next few months to try and get some more shoots done, I'll be up in Hull and Northumberland as well as a couple of trips to Morocco hopefully, it's still got a while to go so hopefully there's a lot more to come.