Straddling the boundaries between documentary and fashion photography, Central Saint Martins trained Sam Khoury has captured the intimacy of youth in her debut exhibition and accompanying book strange to meet you. A body of work Khoury's been creating for two years now, she has curated her prints in a tactile way; a conceptual rejection of social media and a wake up call to live our lives beyond the screen.
Comprising a mixture of captivating portraiture, obscure landscapes and experiments with colour, Khoury's juxtaposition of different concepts of beauty with vivid dreamlike images creates a softness and a quality that make you question what is real and what is not.
A self confessed letter to her friends, strange to meet you encompasses the darker undertones of youth, stemming from the photographer's feelings professionally, personally and politically. Graduating from CSM's esteemed BA Fashion Communication & Promotion, the images when displayed and curated together encapsulate the emotions and existence of youth today. Following the experiential exhibition which took place last Sunday, which saw Khoury open up her own home in a space that played on first encounters and invasions of private and personal boundaries, we joined Sam on her sofa to talk about strange to meet you, the importance of eye contact and life after CSM.
What is strange to meet you and who does it represent?
Strange to meet you is definitely a comment on youth culture, but not in the sense that it looks at a particular group. It's a broader view of my own experience of youth in this very moment, right now. I think that we forget how important one to one interactions are, we've reached a point where we're caught living both virtually and IRL. Strange to meet you is a way of questioning everything that's going on now. How often do we have genuine first encounters with people? We probably see them in someone's story, or they pop up as a suggested friend. We meet people so often and we're so accustomed to seeing new things all the time that we never take the opportunity to take a step back and think 'ok, fuck, this happened today'. It's a comment on the pace of the life we live. I wanted to encourage people to take the time to actually realise who is around them. To question what they care about, and what really means something. That's what Strange to meet you is.
What do you look for when you're working?
I'll always look at a face first. I think there's something in someone's eyes, they never lie. It's not so much about beauty or age or what we see as stereotypical beauty. I just feel like people tell a story in their eyes and it's about capturing one part of that story. Something that keeps you wanting more. But with this project I made the conscious effort to take more landscape and more contextual pieces of work as well as just portraits. Strange to meet you was about social interaction and people find it very hard to converse now, to actually be able to stare someone in the face for a long time.
Is this what led to your decision to exhibit the work in your own home?
Doing it at home just felt right, a lot of the photos were taken here. I wanted that idea of crossing boundaries, of inviting people in to my home that wouldn't normally be here. It was strange to me to have all these people here in my own home looking at my work, that idea of it's strange to meet you right here right now, in my lounge where I sit and watch my TV and relax. It was weird but enjoyable.
The work spans several years, how did you start to curate the imagery?
I started this year thinking about the outcome as an exhibition, initially around the theme of chaos. I was actually looking at Greek mythology and how initially certain gods were created out of chaos. But when it came to making the book, there was work that I had taken over the last two years that I'd never put anywhere and felt was a part of what I was doing now. In the last two years I've travelled a lot and I'd just been storing those photos up.
Will there be a Strange to meet you again? Or is your focus shifting to something new?
It will always continue for me personally. This is an encapsulation of my life and what's around me now, which means that it's also subject to change as my life changes. To call it documentary photography is wrong but it is documenting things that are important and personal to me. All the people in the book I know and have a relationship with, or it's been that I've been travelling and it's more experiential. Everything has a memory a time and a place. Strange to meet you might make an appearance in the future but I'm not sure when. Right now I feel I need to move on.
Photography Sam Khoury
Text Max Tuson