Brought up on the great era of Egyptian cinema Youssef Nabil retains a feeling of nostalgia for the glamorous aestheticism of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Born in Egypt in 1972, he grew up in the streets of Cairo where hand-painted cinema posters gave the walls a timeless elegance, whilst classics from a past era shown on television were to inspire his first love of the big screen.
Whilst studying litterature at the University of Cairo in 1992, as a sideline he began producing black and white photographs; highly dramatic scenes inspired by the golden age of Egyptian cinema. Some encounters were to have a very early influence on in his career: for instance with David Lachapelle (1993-1994) and Mario Testino (1997-1998) whom he accompanied as assistant photographer from New York to Paris.
On returning to Egypt in 1999, Youssef Nabil decides to put colour into his black and white silver gelatin prints; old-fashioned images produced in the spirit of the great studios, after a dream-like vision shared with his friend Van Leo (Leon Boyadjian, 1921-2002). By using a brush to retouch each one of his portraits, he magnifies the expressions of the models he has immortalised – Egyptian personalities and international celebrities from cinema, music, fashion, art and architecture: from Catherine Deneuve to Omar Sharif, Natacha Atlas to Jean-Paul Gaultier and people like Tracey Emin and Zaha Hadid...
Moving from one place to the next, the wanderings of Youssef Nabil recounted through his self-portraits mirror his projects, residences and exhibitions which take place all over the world. His works have been shown in many institutions on the International art scene, amongst them : the Villa Medici (Rome), the Venice Biennale (Venice), the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie (Arles), the Kennedy Centre (Washington), the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (Newcastle), the Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris), Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah), Kunstmuseum (Bonn), the Aperture Foundation (New York) the Centre de Cultura Contemporànea de Barcelona (Barcelona), the British Museum (London) and the Centro de la Imagen (Mexico). His work on the portrait was rewarded by the Seydou Keita prize in 2003 awarded at the photography Biennale de Bamako (Mali), while two monographs already document his work: Sleep In My Arms (Autograph ABP and Michael Stevenson, 2007) and I Won’t Let You Die (Hatje Cantz, 2008).