In the teeming world of contemporary photography, Izudin Yusuf emerges as a distinct and powerful voice. Born in 1997 in the Comoros archipelago, this artist photographer has been able to weave, through his lens, a captivating visual story that explores and celebrates Comorian imaginations. His artistic approach, deeply rooted in his heritage and personal experiences, leads him to Marseille, a crossroads of cultures and stories where he lives and works, thus enriching his art with new perspectives.
Izudin's work is distinguished by his choice of portraiture as a preferred means of expression. Through this genre, he doesn't just capture faces or moments; he seeks to question and deconstruct dominant representations. Her work is an invitation to delve into the depths of identities, exploring with finesse the nuances of class and gender, while highlighting the intergenerational dynamics that shape individuals and communities.
What makes Izudin's approach particularly fascinating is his ability to mix the intimate and the social, the personal and the collective. His photographs are windows into individual stories, but they also resonate with universal themes, such as the quest for identity, intergenerational transmission and the fight against stereotypes. By capturing the essence of his subjects, Izudin offers us a mirror in which our own questions and our own struggles are reflected.
In this interview, Izudin Yusuf invites us on a journey through his artistic universe. He shares with us the sources of inspiration that fuel his work, the challenges he encounters in his creative quest and the aspirations that guide him. Through his words, we discover a committed artist, an attentive observer of his times, and a visual storyteller whose images are bridges between cultures, generations and individuals.
1. Beyond your origins, what inspires you so much in the Comoros and how is this fascination reflected in your artistic expression?
I think that what inspires me in the Comoros is above all the individuals and their stories which are intimately linked to me. I spend a lot of time talking, exchanging with different people, fishermen, religious farmers, there is such a great energy. Sometimes just spending the morning with my farmer uncle or my grandmother gives me inspiration. Besides, we see it in my work, whether in Marseille or the Comoros, they are people from my family where friends are very rarely strangers. I always have a minimum connection with the people I photograph.
2. When you started photography, did you already have the idea of deconstructing this notion of class and how this has evolved throughout your artistic journey?
Yes, it was in the back of my mind because I read a lot of anthropology, sociology and history; I even enrolled at university to take courses. But I didn't know how to link it to photography, so at the beginning I took photos without adding “meaning”. But little by little I questioned myself. During confinement in 2020 I built a solid photographic culture with references like Diane Arbus, Marry Ellen Mark, Carrie Mae Weems, Dawoud Bey and Deana Lawson. I focused more on their speeches on their visions of photography and then built mine.
3. What particularly inspires you in portraits? How do you use this genre to explore questions related to the construction of class, gender and identity?
I find that portraits are still very “intimate” I like the atmosphere between me and the subject until I find the trigger. Even if I have a vision, we build the image together, now I exchange a lot when I take a photo unconsciously the subjects reveal a little of their personalities it's very social. I use a square format camera which allows me to concentrate on the person without the artifices, I also like to show the environment in which the subjects are photographed, it's important it allows me to build an imagination, that Whoever looks at the photo is directly in the heart of the matter.
5. How would you describe the impact of your collaboration with the Égéries des Cités brand on your artistic approach?
My artistic approach remains the same for my personal work. What this collaboration brought me was attention to detail; fashion is very demanding. When I took photos for my personal work I saw that everything did not have to be “perfect”. In fashion it's different, you must above all highlight clothes and models while responding to an artistic direction. It's a lot of teamwork where communication is essential. I saw that I still had a lot of room for improvement, which really pushed me to deepen my technique. As someone who is more into art and documentary photography, it's a challenge to manage to match all that.
6. Where do you draw this sensitivity towards the social dimension in your photographic work? Does this find its roots in your personal experience?
Everything I do in photography has a link with my personal experience; it has become a bit like introspection. I think the first trigger was my father, since I was little he had been talking to me about politics, every evening at 8 p.m. we watched the television news, I found it fascinating. Rap also particularly with Youssoupha and Disiz the plague I tried to understand all their references. Then later it was sociology and the discovery of Bourdieu which literally changed my vision and allowed me to decipher and understand certain mechanisms which for me were invisible.
7. Your art is driven by a certain commitment. Are you planning to get involved in any other specific causes?
I find that for the moment even if my art is driven by commitment it is insufficient, I am not in an association, or I have not yet done things that bring people together outside of social networks. So I'm thinking more about deepening what I do to take more concrete actions. This is just the beginning.
8. Do you have any future projects that you can tease for us?
In 2024 I would like to hold a photo exhibition in Marseille, also bringing together researchers who could host conferences in parallel with the event.