Having roamed far from Cairo, his native city to which he remains deeply attached, Youssef Nabil preserves the memory of particular moments in a series of self portraits resembling the pages of a photo-story. Across postcard landscapes, the artist places himself in the shot in order to tell a story, his story, becoming the protagonist of a pre-written scenario, whereas the moment registered on film keeps the course of a destiny irrevocably linked to his own end. Following a fragmented existence which unfolds before the spectator, Youssef Nabil conjures up the towns which he passes through as indeterminate spaces which can only be identified by the title.
Thus, Self Portrait with Roots, Los Angeles preserves the memory of his presence in the Californian city and of an ancient tree a few steps from his hotel. Beyond the autobiographical story, the artist reveals some of the existential themes which drive his work: notably that of exile, which seem to lead him toward some undefined faraway place, and the impermanence of an existence that he desires to complete in a different time.
A black and white silver gelatin print, painted by hand to bring an almost dreamlike colour to it; Self Portrait with Roots, Los Angeles represents a self –portrait of the artist, a naked body, coiled in the hollow of the tree, resting in a slumber which seems to flirt with death. In a style which crosses over between photography and painting, Youssef Nabil shows how attached he is to his homeland, by the symbolic use of the tree roots, which seem to issue endlessly from the tree with which he communes. A nostalgic testimony to the close connection that he still has with Egypt, his work transcends the notions of space and time in order to evoke the course of a nomadic existence magnified for all eternity.
Translated by Theodora Taylor