Home Magazine Embraces of the Soul: Illuminating Connections Through Captivating Photography

An Interview with Ali Sabouki, an Iranian Photographer Redefining Art and Emotion through the 'Embraces' Series

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A prominent artist hailing from Shiraz, born in 1985, and currently based in Tehran, Ali Sabouki has crafted a remarkable artistic journey. With a background in Scenic Design from the University of Art and Architecture in Tehran, Ali's creative pursuits have spanned across diverse mediums, including theatre, movies, and visual arts. However, it is in the realm of photography, specifically portraiture, that he has truly found his calling over the past decade. In his upcoming exhibition, titled 'Embraces,' opening on the 24th of July and running until the 24th of August, Ali's hauntingly expressive portraits delve into the complexities of identity and the interconnectivity of the human spirit amidst isolation. His work draws inspiration from the techniques of Old Masters, all the while offering a profound exploration of the human condition in the contemporary world. This exhibition promises to be a captivating and thought-provoking experience, inviting viewers to contemplate the essence of existence and the power of human connection through the lens of Ali Sabouki's evocative artistry.


Kooness: Describe what kind of art you focus on.

Ali Sabouki: As a photographer, I have been practicing this art since 2010. Over the years, I have gained experience in various media, such as theater and cinema stage design, sculpture, and video art. However, fine art photography and portraits have become my main areas of focus.

Kooness: Where are you from, and how does that affect your work?

AS: I come from Shiraz, Iran, a city known for its poets and artists like Hafez and Saadi. Growing up in this vibrant world, my father was a theater actor, which inspired me greatly. Our home was filled with movie soundtracks and art books, and I was surrounded by art from a young age. Drawing as a child was my favorite way to relax, and I believe this exposure to the world of art had an impact on my current involvement in the art scene.

Ali Sabouki. Embrace 20, 2023. Courtesy of Eran Gallery

Kooness: How do you develop your art skills?

AS: I am always seeking to broaden my horizons through new experiences. My passion for experimentation has been invaluable to me since my education, and it continues to be so today. As a result, I have gained diverse experiences in various fields of visual arts, cinema, and theater. These experiences have greatly improved my photography skills. That's why I usually handle my photography work, including set design, costume design, and other necessary tasks. I have become proficient in all of these areas. In order to maintain a high level of experience and personal growth, I often study art history, social events, and psychological or sociological issues. I also engage with other artists to expand my knowledge and skills.

Kooness: What is the goal of your artworks?

AS: I often contemplate on the concept of awakening and increasing awareness, with a focus on achieving inner peace for people all over the world. My work primarily deals with inner issues and aims to inspire a sense of self-revelation and self-knowledge, leading to a more peaceful way of living. My ultimate goal is to create art that serves as a catalyst for individuals to find their place in today's world.

Kooness: How can your work help or affect societal issues?

AS: In my opinion, art serves as a powerful tool for contemporary individuals to communicate and transform their surroundings. In today's world, we are often bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information, leading to a superficial way of living. Therefore, I believe that creating art that is both profound and of high quality can have a meaningful impact on people. From my personal experience, I have witnessed the positive effects of my artwork on others, as they express their emotions and understanding of my message.

Kooness: Which art trends inspire your current work?

AS: I have never considered my art to be influenced by photography patterns. Instead, I have always been drawn to the colors, compositions, and attention to detail found in European Baroque and Renaissance paintings and sculptures. From a young age, I found the way these works played with light and shadow to be particularly captivating. I spent many hours studying the works of artists such as Rembrandt, Raphael, Caravaggio, and Michelangelo, marveling at their depth and sense of mystery.

Kooness: What have critics and collectors said about your work?

AS: Asking an artist about the reception of their work can be a sensitive matter. However, based on my observations, critics and collectors have been able to connect with my pieces, experiencing emotions and deep reflection. They appreciate that I have maintained my Eastern identity while conveying my message symbolically. Additionally, I frequently receive feedback that the subjects and characters in my works are impactful, contributing to the photographic event that occurred.

Ali Sabouki. Embrace 3, 2023. Courtesy of Eran Gallery

Kooness: is there any additional hobby or job that allows you to develop your creative skills?

AS: I have a variety of interests, but I have always focused on developing my creativity in the field of photography, which is my main skill. I enjoy hobbies such as carpentry, sculpting, and fabric and clothing design, which I incorporate into my photography. I believe this unique combination of skills sets my work apart from others.

Kooness: What are your ultimate career goals?

AS: I have a passion for photography and artistic expression. I have many ideas that I want to convey to my audience through this medium. However, I believe that an artist should not be limited by the medium and should use the most powerful tool available to them to create their work. I would like to explore cinema as well, as I feel there is a deep connection between the two mediums. Many of my favorite cinematographers started out as photographers, and I believe that a photographic eye can greatly enhance the framing and depth of cinematic images and concepts.

Kooness: What is your ideal working environment?

AS: My top priority is ensuring my family's peace of mind by providing them with a safe and secure environment. My perfect workspace would have all the necessary resources to bring my creative ideas to life, regardless of its location. I have been striving for this opportunity for years, but I can never forget my roots as an Eastern artist from the Middle East. No matter where I go, my work reflects the struggles and experiences of this region.

Kooness: Please tell us more about the "Embraces" series.

AS: Photography has always been a passion of mine, and the "Embraces" series presented a unique challenge. I often received feedback that my success in photography was solely dependent on the facial expressions of my subjects. To challenge this notion, I embarked on this project to showcase that the meaning of my artwork runs deeper than just the subject's appearance. The focus of this series is on the hands, as I believe they have a lot to say. Our eyes may deceive, but our hands don't. To capture this, I traveled throughout Iran and asked people to embrace their loved ones. These images are just a glimpse of the emotional stories that unfolded during these encounters. The hugs shared during the photoshoots created a profound connection between the subjects, resulting in a memorable experience for all involved. Sadly, hugging is often overlooked in today's society, and I hope that my series emphasizes the importance of this connection and reminds people of the need for it.

In 2016, ERAN Gallery was established with the purpose of providing a platform for Iranian artists seeking representation in North America. Recognizing the significance of the digital realm, they firmly believe in its power to foster transparency and fairness in the art market. Their mission is to support both emerging and established visual artists, representing diverse media and genres. With a strong commitment to excellence, ERAN Gallery diligently showcases exceptional contemporary fine art to a global audience. Beyond mere representation, their vision extends to enabling art enthusiasts and collectors to explore new artistic frontiers from Persian culture and to find inspiration in the works of exceptionally talented artists they might not have encountered elsewhere, thus opening doors to new artistic horizons through the dynamic space of Eran Gallery.

Cover Image: Embrace. Ali Sabouki. Online Exhibition on Kooness

Written by: Kooness

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