Souhayl A is an influential artist-photographer living and working the main part of the year in Paris France. His specialty is Storytelling by Art-documentary and Streetphotography. Ranked by Fotoslovo magazine among the 10 most influential street photographers right now : N°4. His work has been rewarded and been exhibited internationally in many countries around the world. He regularly delivers workshops in Paris, France, teaching the art of street photography. He is the Founder of BnW Photo Awards and Paris Street Photography Awards, a world-famous photo contest that promotes every year new emerging talents in the discipline of Street Photography. He is also co-founder of the festival « Selma Photo Nights » in the US and the Art Director of Les Nuits Photo de Pierrevert, one of the most important Photo Festivals in France. Souhayl collaborates often with magazines dedicated to photography by shooting covers and publishing articles and he regularly appears on prestigious jury lists of many photographic events.
After starting out as a street photographer capturing absurd and sensitive situations with an iPhone, he quickly pushed his street photography projects deeper often adopting a post-documentary point of view or breaking the codes of the classic reportage narration. During the past ten years he documented extensively streets of Paris, focusing especially on the working-class neighborhoods of north of the capital.
By its recognizable style via its geometric framing, the aesthetics of its composition which is marked by a certain "poetic realism", his empathy towards the people he photographs, he is about to succeed in the challenge of resurrecting the French humanist current of street photography that for a time had been relegated to the books History, with the lost of the last two great representatives of this movement Henri Cartier Bresson (2004) and Willy Ronis (2009).
Today Souhayl pursues personal projects in street photography, but says he is not limited only to this discipline that he continues to use as a gateway to other types of projects that he calls "photographic essays" or "docu-fictions". Often around themes that are his favorites such as the relations between different genders inside closed groups such as the phenomenon of Gangs in large metropolitan cities or the culturally alienating aspects generated by globalized liberal consumer societies :
“There are many stated rules in street photography that everyone tries to follow to the letter since the beginning and until now. But the problem I have today as a photographer who has experienced almost everything in street photography is that these rules, it is not me who wrote them !..For me, apart from photojournalism which should continue to document the accuracy of reality, for other non-committed disciplines including street photography, it is necessary to stop directing and limiting photographic projects with always big text, mediation of experts and other ideological artefacts and privileged more the raw context and pictorial narrations. In an era of postmodernity, the direction of the photographic message should now belong to the viewer of the photograph and not only to the photographer. The elite of street photography should stop preaching Puritanism, only way for set free the field of possibilities, leave a large part to the fiction in new projects coming. The photographer should no longer focus all his energy only on shooting but have a much global vision of things.”
You are self-taught, how and why did you start photography ?
I spent many years observing others to try to understand their behavior. I learned so long before photography arrives in my life to decode and anticipate certain situations till the point of being able to predict them sometimes in advance. For do that you have to appreciate loneliness and learn how to take advantage of your solitude to transform it into a force. Photography and art in general have arrived in my life from the moment I began to work, earn money and travel. I would say that in my case photography is the last medium of expression I have found, resulting from a slow process of intellectual maturation.
Your work is not considered like totally documentary and it’s not fiction. How you define it ?
True, my photography often adopts a (post) documentary point of view. I often start my author projects, taking in consideration a real situation or some news item. However the documentary side in a project that I'm going to start will only interest me in a relative way. I find that the documentary has developed over time codes and reflexes that have locked the genre in a monolithic vision, which becomes a posterior monotonous. For the rest, the idea of the flirt between reality and fiction does not seem to me in contradiction with the era we are currently living in, where the reality sometimes goes far beyond fiction.
One part of your work concern street photography, what’s your approach of this discipline ?
I practice this discipline almost every day since more than 10 years now. I appreciate particularly the challenging side of getting closer to people without being realy invasive. Looking in the street for "Eye Contact" of people and get from them candid high emotional portraits has become my specialty. For do that, you should know your camera, learn how to read potential photogenic situations and not be afraid to argue with people in order to negotiate your photographs.
So you do not stage your Street photographs ?
Not when I’m practicing street photography, the photographs I select and publish for my project Walking Paris With Love, are never staged, it’s all matter of integrity. For me, it’s much more exciting to challenge yourself to capture real authentic moments even if it takes you long time to get them. If you stage your photographs, people will end up knowing it sooner or later. Then your reputation as a Street photographer will be compromised. Look at what happened to Robert Doisneau with all the legal proceedings he had during his lifetime when he became famous and also how historians and art critics are judging his work now.
Who are your street photographic influences ?
August Sanders, Lewis Hine, Richard Kalvar and photographers of the French humanist school like André kertész, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Izis or Marc Riboud.
2023 : Collective Exhibition « The Absurd » at The Chateau Gallery Louisville Kentucky USA
2023 : Collective Exhibition « The shadow aspect » at Praxis Gallery Minnesota USA
2023 : Collective Exhibition with the series « Walking Paris with love » at CIP Festival at Chania Greece
2023 : Exhibition of the series « Walking Paris With Love » at Xposure Sharjah Dubai Photo Festival
2022 : Exhibition of the series « Walking Paris with love » at Photo Festival - Présence(s) Montélimar
2021 : Exhibition of the series « Moroccan Views » at the French Institute of Essaouira
2021 : Exhibition of the series « Walking Paris with love » at the Phodar Bulgaria festival
2021 : Exhibition of the « Walking Paris with love » project at GSPF gallery, Gutenberg Sweden
2021 : Exhibition of the « Walking Paris with love » project at Sonia Monti gallery
2020 : Exhibition of the « Gangsta Dating Story » project at the Grand Palais during Art Capital 2020
2020 : Collective exhibition “Body and emotions” at the Artistic Rezo gallery
2019 : Exhibition of « Gangsta Dating Story » at the P/CAS International Art Fair
2019 : Exhibition of « Gangsta Dating Story » at the Young International Art Fair - YIA
2018 : Exhibition of « Walking Paris With Love » in Iran Art For Peace Festival
2018 : Exhibition of « MAD MAN » in M.A.D gallery Milano of « MAD MAN »
2016 : Projection at Photo Festival - Présence(s) Montélimar of « Bloody Friday »
2016 : Projection at Photo Festival - « Les Nuits d'Essaouira » of « MAD MAN »
2016 : Exhibition at Espace Beaurepaire - PX3 Winners contest
2016 : Projection at Photo Festival « Les nuits de Pierrevert » of « Gangsta Dating Story »
2015 : Exhibition at Festival Photo'Aix - Aix en Provence - of « Alicia »
2015 : Exhibition at Photo Festival PhotoFeel France - Courthézon of « Gangsta Dating Story »
2014 : Exhibition at Photo Festival - Présence(s) Montélimar of « Gangsta Dating Story »
2013 : Exhibition at espace artistique rue Dénoyez Paris 20e - Paris
2012 : Exhibition at espace Beaux repères Paris 10e – « Le carnet de route du Che »
Books - Publications :
2023 : Article in Arabic language, on the sidelines of my exhibition at the Xposure Sharjah UAE festival
2023 : Article talking about my photo exhibition at Xposure Sharjah EAU
2020 : Cover of Fotoslovo magazine issue N°4
2018 : Publication of « Walking Paris with love » in Link Lens
2018 : Publication of « Walking Paris with love » in Eyeshot
2018 : Publication of « Gangsta Dating Story » in Open Eye (page 192)
2017 : Publication of « Gangsta Dating Story » in True Africa
2017 : Publication of « Gangsta Dating Story » in l'oeil de la photographie
2017 : Publication of « Gangsta Dating Story » in P3 Publico
2017 : Publication of « Gangsta Dating Story » in le magazine C41
2016 : Publication of "Where is my mind..." in Lensculture magazine
2016 : Publication of "Extasis" + interview in Private magazine (version française)
2016 : Publication of « Bloody Friday » in Lens Culture magazine and in HP - De Tijd
2015 : Publication of Portfolio & interview in Chasseurs d'images n° 376
2014 : First publication in magazine PHOTO n° 507
2023 : 3th place winner at APP Mag contest
2021 : Finalist photo contest Phodar Bulgaria
2017 : Double honorable mention in IPOTY, 4th place in categorie Street and Story
2016 : First prize Gold title Paris International Photo Awards PX3
2016 : Winner at the International Photography YouPic Contest
2015 : Winner Paris book machine - PARIS PHOTO Grand Palais
2015 : Double honorable mention MIFA Moscow contest
2015 : Second place « Urban DoArt » Contest. My photo page 51
2015 : First prize PHODAR Biennale Internationale Pleven Bulgarie
2014 : Winner Nokia « Aventures urbaines » contest.
Other accomplishements :
2020 : Co-fondation of the photo festival « Selma Photo Nights »
2019 : Art Direction of the photo festival « Les nuits de Pierrevert »
2018 : Art Direction of the photo festival « Les Nuits d'Essaouira »
2018 : Collaboration with Singulart plateform.
2018 : Fondation of Paris Street Photography Awards
2017 : Fondation of Maghreb Photography Awards
2015 : Collaboration with Paris book machine 2015 - Onestar Press
2023 : TV broadcast show recorded in French with me talking about street photography "Is street photography an art in danger ?" on ODC TV
2021 : Screening of the photo project « Walking Paris with love » at the Les Rencontres Photo de Marrakech festival : video
2016 : Bloody Friday & Days After – The highligths video
2016 : Highligths of "MAD MAN" : video
2016 : Gangsta Dating Story, the highligths video
2016 : Highligths of Photo Festival "Les nuits de Pierrevert" in video
2015 : Highligths of Photo Festival PhotAix, Aix en Provence in video
2015 : "The Trip Photographer" II : video
2015 : Highligths of Photo Festival Courthézon 26 - 28 juin in video
2014 : " The Trip Photographer" I : video