Making an appearance at "The Grass Grows" group show during Art Basel, is non other then the celebrated Italian-Jordanian photographer and visual artist, Mustafa Sabbagh. He earned a Master's degree in Architecture at the University of Venice and trained in photography as the assistant of Richard Avedon for two years in London as part of his curriculum. Sabbagh has collaborated with the prestigious Central Sain Martins College of Art and Design, and fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. His work has appeared in various magazine publications such as Arena, The Face, Vogue Italia, L'UOMO Vogue, among others.
His photography is dark, mysterious, subversive and violently seductive. It reflects an erotic imagination, and the styling of the subject lies in between fashion and art. He combines portrait with still life juxtaposed with a dark backdrop as if it were a nocturnal landscape. He captures his models at depths of black shades, evoking the renaissance paintings, and accentuating the imperfections and flaws hidden in the dark side of the individual, because for Sabbagh, "real beauty hurts". The Nordic Renaissance era, as well as Caravaggio paintings, the Antonioni's films, architecture and fetishism are influences he finds in executing his modern portrait.
His subjects are intentionally stylized with the use of customes of different eras. He incorporates accessories such as corsets from the seventeenth century, shoes, dresses, wigs, veils, forks, accompanied with sacred iconography, and shielded with fetish masks, sometimes even naked, capturing the subject in a theatrical and sadomasochistic way. Additionally, his vision reflects dress code and gender conflict in his subject, as if these were to amend. It is through his lens that he constructs and defines the portrait in which he delivers the fantasy and desire of the model.
Mustafa Sabbagh's exhibition at "The Grass Grows" is not to be missed. The exhibition runs from June 15th through June 22nd, at Riehenstrasse 74, Basel, Switzerland.
All photography by Mustafa Sabbagh