After all these years working with photography, I came to a realization that photography connects, transports, expresses and eternalizes. Photography informs, inspires and amazes us. Photography shares and freezes time. Photography tells stories. Photography creates awareness, brings us joy and hope. Photography teaches us history that has been once documented. Photography can also be education, and many times, the truth. Photography is the past, the present and will tell the future.
Since we are talking about photography I thought of exploring my involvement on Instagram, today considered one of the most influential applications on Social Media.
July 8, 2012, that was when I first posted a photo on Instagram. After 11 years, over 4000 posts, I never thought I would achieve everything I have so far. During the past 11 years on Instagram, I learned not just about photography and its power, but I also learned about its magic, and its uniqueness as a form of art. Instagram also taught me about life. I learned that Instagram isn’t just an app for photos — today it is much more than that. I use the app to analyze, to research, to learn. to connect and engage, I use Instagram to study.
Those who follow my work on Instagram might notice that my handle was @nabilsami9 up to now. After more than a decade I have decided to take a step further and would now like to introduce @nabilsamiphotography. It is the same account, same person behind the photos – me – but a different mentality as to how to use this powerful resource for photographers, creators, and opinion makers. But truly, it is a new chapter for me as a photojournalist. It is a social space to inform, to share and to beautify. An account where the concept of meaningful photography will be explored and shared.
A few years ago I wrote an article describing Social Media as one of today's world powers. People use, follow, and trust the media without questioning it, even though they should. I decided to formalize this virtual space that helps me to connect the photos I take with the rest of the world. I want these photos to be windows to people's homes, to be fixed memories on their walls, to be colors where colors can’t be found, even when the photo is black and white. I want this, what is mine to also be yours.
Below I will share a bit of my story and the path I’ve trodden, which made @nabilsamiphotography possible.
It is a personal reflection that goes beyond Nabil Sami just as a photographer.
THIS IS ME
Known since high school to carry a camera up and down. To document everything around me. This reflection reminds me of the words of Susan Sontag, writer and art reviewer in her book “On Photography”. She writes: "To collect photos is to collect the world”.
So I guess, we photographers even better, all of us can be called world collectors. That is what I decided to do; to collect the world.
Today after 31 years of life. After visiting 24 countries and living in 5 of them, with two photo exhibitions and a published book: THIS IS ME. Someone passionate about the world of arts, always striving for perfection and attracted to beauty. Looking deeply into every detail of life. The mistakes, the achievements and improvements. The colors and dimensions of places. The diversity and the unity of the people of the world we live in. The new and the old. And without knowing it, I have for a long time been collecting everything that crossed my path:
The simplicity of a place and the luxury of a culture, deep looks from brown and blue eyes, straight and curly hair, the black and the white, men and women, children, youth, adults and the elderly, I have walked through places collecting various religious cultures, I’ve collected a bit of the east and of the west, south and north, happiness and sadness. A bit of every continent in this world.
As my reflection dwelt on “This is me”, a conversation vividly came to mind:
How do you want to be remembered in this world? This was a question raised by a friend in a conversation a few years ago in Israel, in the midst of the pandemic.
When I was 17, I decided to study Journalism. I chose a career that would give me the opportunity to constantly meet new people and tell their stories. I would be able to give a voice to those who cannot speak. I would communicate with the world, face challenges and, of course, get out of my comfort zone while seeing the beauty in every aspect of life. When I immersed myself in this world of images, all I hoped to do was to seek the truth and observe the world so that through the lens of my camera, and through the power of words, I could document reality, giving the world a taste of what humanity is working towards, and bringing to the forefront some harsh realities in today’s society.
During the pandemic, even though my full time work was not photography related I did my best not to stop posting photos on my Instagram and periodically write photo essays on my blog. Not because I wanted my work to be widely spread and well known, but it was during that time that I got messages from people I had never met in my life, saying that my photos brought them comfort during the pandemic, that my posts brought them joy and calm during that time of uncertainty and agony.
That’s when I realized that I am just an instrument, and my eyes, and by extension my camera were there just to capture what others needed to see. The truth is they don’t know who I am, but knowing that my photos help to make a change gives me some purpose in life. And that’s how I want to be remembered in this world. Most of my photos today are of nature, landscapes, and portraits. And during the pandemic – when I was living in Haifa, Israel, serving at Bahá’í World Centre – most of my photos were of the Holy Places and their gardens.
This is me. Nabil Sami Silva. But I go by Nabil Sami as my “artistic” name. The truth is, if you are still reading this, it is very likely you know me already. But if you have never met me in person, I hope that you like my photos. And they bring you some sort of joy.
After graduating from high school, my home became the world. Of course adjusting to new places and cultures can be challenging, but wherever I end up, I try to be creative and always to find a way to serve humanity, always taking risks in using this creative inner being to add something to wherever I go, whatever I do and whoever I meet. I chose journalism because of the way images spoke to me. Even though they have a silent way of communicating, I always felt we spoke the same language. As Minor White, an American photographer and educator once wrote, “Photography is a language more universal than words”. So the truth is, no matter where home is, I will always find a way of communicating with others.
Wherever I am, I feel this connection between the operator (photographer) and the referent (person being photographed). No matter what prejudices I may have latent within me, I always strive to put them aside and appreciate people and their uniqueness, I try to see the inner reality of each human being, their divine essence; their soul, something difficult for our material and limited eyes to understand, something we can only feel.
The opening photo of this post also speaks louder than words can describe. At this point, you are well aware that I am passionate about documenting the world around me. Always using photos to speak to people. To serve humanity. To show others what they can’t see. And lately trying to use photos to connect people. This is me, an instrument to document beauty, to document the truth. It can be a landscape, portraits, architecture and the list goes on. This is what made @nabilsamiphotography turn from an idea to reality – the art to be creative, the art to photograph, the art to give life with images, the art to paint with light. The art to visually tell stories. @nabilsamiphotography isn’t just an Instagram account, it is going to be much more than that.
Today a new chapter begins, the way I will use Instagram will slowly change. I am happy that @nabilsamiphotography will bring new horizons, new opportunities, and will open new doors and windows; @nabilsamiphotography doesn’t belong just to me. It is ours! It will be a space to learn and to teach, to connect, to share and explore. A space where photography won’t just be seen, it will be discussed. @nabilsamiphotography - This is me!