About Me

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January 8, 2014 · by Dee Kukushkind · in interview. ·
Art of Assem AlSabban is very much differentiated because when one looks at his works it’s not that easy to figure out whether it’s a painting or a photography, some look like illustrations, but all of them with different techniques applied. Assem doesn’t give preference to film or digital camera, he has the same passion for both with the only difference that he uses different approaches when choosing the type of camera. Port.Folium team had pleasure to visit Assem’s studio and dive into inspiration and creativity world. Bordeaux colour walls with framed pictures on them, wooden floors, soft and relaxing light, great Italian classic singers songs have created  perfect atmosphere for a pleasant and relaxing conversation.

What kind of works do you do now? Is it commercial or art works?
Well now I do only art work, not for commercial purposes. I believe here’s a lot of people to do commerce and I don’t want to compete with anybody. I concentrate only on the artworks. It’s my passion. Sometimes I sell my pictures, but to friends, I don’t try to sell them commercially. I make the price reasonable so anybody from my friends can afford it.
It’s joy to any artist or photographer to show their works, at the same time I don’t want to show my work to people who don’t appreciate art. I had exhibition in Egypt, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Prague and Paris. I work nearly every day with photos.

In the studio
How do you see the difference between commercial art and art not for money?
Well, commercial one makes money, good money. I did commercial work for many years. I worked with the biggest advertising agencies, I don’t do that anymore. I prefer to spend my time working on my own artwork.

Acrylic Prague
But do you work with the same passion for commercial works?
Yes, but its a different kind of passion, passion for perfection,details and results. When doing professional commercial work one has to possess an eye for such work. Serious commercial work is another world, you work with professionals who want top quality in everything, and that is a positive challenge.

We see you’ve got a lot of works here in the studio. How many hours did you spend on them?
In average the picture would take from 4 to 5 hours, others would take a few months to finalise.  If you use a film camera, then a lens and a film is all you basically have; here we are talking about Medium format and Big Format films, what you call 120mm, 4x5inch and 8×10 inch films.  Nothing digital. For this kind of pictures  “shift and tilt” options allow endless possibilities for control. Serious advertisement in magazine  takes days  and many hours of work to perfect just one shot.

Art Novo
From your point of view, is there a way how to get a perfect shot without further photoshopping it?
Yes of course. You have to always target for a perfect shot. But when you’re using film camera, it costs more. So you put the camera, you set it, you wait for the right time and moment… and you click. Here, we are talking about artistic photography.

What programs do you use for digital photo editing?
Photoshop, Painter and other programs.

And how much time you spend on photo editing? What actually takes longer, to take a shot or to edit it?
To take a shot, because I know what I want. For example to make a work in the “motion” style, I take a series of photos that I combine into one end result. While an artwork like  “Freedom” with pigeons, I took the shot, but applied the movement effect already working in studio.

We have noticed palette in the studio. Do you also paint?
I was never able to paint. I experiment with colours, I still try it.

How is your style called?
I have different styles of work – “my styles”. For example PhotoMotion, PhotoPainting , PhotoAcrylic Painting, Photo Impressionism,  and one of my latest styles is Melting point. I also many times mix different style into my final ArtWork. My mood defines my style.


Besides creating works you are also teaching photography, is it true?
Yes, I teach photography as well; I mainly teach how to set an eye for the picture. Usually my students are my friends or amateur photographers who want to learn more. Every lesson, I give them home work that helps improve their skills and teach them to see more as a photographer. I’m proud of my students work and continuous improvement.

Did you learn photography and photoshop by yourself?
Yes, I’m a self taught photographer and the same with photoshop. I have been doing photography for the last 40 years.


When it comes to portraits of your friends, how do you take them?
I apply different styles to each person. It depends how I feel about each person’s character.  And what is more important that it’s all about getting into contact with the person. Main principle in taking photos of people – don’t push, let them be themselves.

The Violin
Do you name all your pictures?
Not all, some of them. The more you look into my work the more you’ll discover what I want to convey in my work.

Red District
The studio has multiple pictures on the walls. They display two cities:  Paris and Prague. Which city you prefer?
Paris does not impress me as a city. Prague is the place where I feel comfortable and where i’m inspired.

Paris corner in the studio
Do you have favorite places in Prague to go for photo hunting?
No. Actually I go everywhere. Prague is a dream land for photographers.

How did you find your studio?
A good friend of mine advised me. In the beginning it looked different; I had to change The colour of the walls and floor in the way I like, in order to get the proper atmosphere.

   Assem Alsabban, pocházející ze Saudské Arábie, začal fotit v pouhých 14 letech a mnoho let pracoval pro přední reklamní agentury v Saudské Arábii a dalších zemích. Jeho povolání diplomata mu pak umožnilo procestovat různé země a přineslo mnoho inspirace pro jeho uměleckou tvorbu. Měl možnost svým objektivem zachytit krásy mnoha zemí Středního východu, Senegalu, ale i Paříže či Helsinek a dalších evropských měst. Jedním z míst, které si zamiloval a stalo se častým námětem jeho děl, je právě Praha.

Stále populárnější jsou takzvané pop-up prezentace s expozicemi jednotlivých autorů, mezi kterými letos uvidíme tvorbu Roberta Carritherse, Antonia Cossy, nebo například Magdaleny Bláhové. Poprvé a zcela unikátně se představí například i „Projekt Assem Alsabban“, prezentující specifickou tvorbu fotografa Assema Alsabbana ze Saudské Arábie, jehož fotografie, například ty, které jsou spjaté s magickým prostředím Prahy, již nejsou českému publiku neznámé  – třeba i díky výstavě „Two Artists Two Worlds One Prague“, která proběhla v létě 2015 v Galerii Jakubská malíře Alexandra Onishenka.

Assem Alsabban začal fotit v pouhých 14 letech a mnoho let pracoval pro přední reklamní agentury. Jeho povolání diplomata mu pak umožnilo procestovat různé země a přineslo mnoho inspirace. Jedním z míst, která si zamiloval, a stala se častým námětem jeho děl, je právě Praha. Ve svých fotografiích ukazuje její jedinečnou atmosféru s širokou škálou odlišných výrazů. Odhaluje poetiku zdánlivě všedních věcí a zprostředkovává výjimečné okamžiky vizuální představivosti. Pracuje s principy koláže, montáže nebo vrstvení a snímky následně specificky upravuje a tiskne na plátno, takže působí jako úchvatné malby (titulní fotografie: Assem Alsabban/Tram Driver, níže: Assem Alsabban/Paris Passion).
March 28, 2016
by : Maram Taibah

It is art that says so much in one glance. The compositions of Assem represent many forms of art at once. Using photography as a starting point, he builds  an entire world upon a photograph, using textures and images that he compiles one on top of the other. His work even has a musical and story-like quality.   There is a surreal quality to the artwork taking the viewer through a fantastical flight of steps and every step up is a level deeper into the heart of the work. Although the subjects of the art may, in an abstract sense, be ordinary – trams, buildings, people, flower, animals – but they are manipulated to say much more. Images intersperse and collide across the surface dipping and ducking through webs of outlines. How does Sabban do it?  From the start, since he was 14 years old, he had a camera in his hand. “I still use my Large Format Wooden Camera, and my old Hasselbad”. With the mind of a photographer and a solid loyalty to Photoshop, Sabban has found a fountain of inspiration through photomontage by bringing those two mediums together. He has been using Photoshop since Photoshop 2.5. In comparison to manual methods of photo manipulation, the program provides it all with so much ease and flexibility. What chemicals did to prints in the lab, Photoshop can do in a matter of seconds. Sabban’s method is a matter of compiling and manipulating layers of images, around ten to twenty photos at once, while managing a delicate balance that keeps the final image from appearing too noisy or stuffy and, at the same time, conveying the right emotion or impression.  Using the tools in the program, he mixes colors to create the perfect moods.

“When I'm working on my images, I feel like a painter,” he says, “I create a general view of the image then get into the small details”. There is no specific method or a specific range of tools that he uses in the program. It is a matter of applying the tools that support what his imagination demands of the program.  While the method may seem quite doable, with work of such complexity one wonders about the control that is required to keep an image strong without feeding the canvas with too many elements. “It’s really very difficult to feel when to stop,” He says, ”So, I depend on my feeling. Some of my work I leave hanging for months. Then I come back to work on it and it takes only a few strokes of photos, colors, and touches until I feel it could be what I want to express.” Perhaps this aspect of his working method is what makes his artwork unique. Also, he has managed to create an ambience for his work that is consistently and fluidly conveyed in each and every piece, no matter what subject or location is feature in it.

Sabban has been inspired recently by his life in Prague as the diplomat in the Saudi embassy, where he exhibited his art. Looking closely at his work there is a fragile European sensibility to it and there is a fine line between his personality and the surroundings that he captures. According to Sabban, Prague inspired him to go back to photography and, as he used to tell his photography students, it is the place to go for black and white photography.   Sabbans’s work was exhibited not only Prague but in many other places, such as, Bon, Germany, Alexandria and Riyadh. In the beginning of his journey as an artist, he lost his studio in Riyadh, which was a devastating incident. While he lost things that were unredeemable, it took him a while to regain his footing and achieve a renaissance for his art.  His collection now is very vast, a collection of  little stories that come from the heart and an authentic place buried deep in the imagination.

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