How I See It: Yassine El Mansouri
How I See It is Le Mondo's features of local photographers being creative in quarantine. How does photography inhibit or fuel creativity in quarantine? What are new and interesting ways to document one’s living space when creative space and environment is limited? These are all questions we look forward to asking Baltimore photographers as they navigate COVID-19.
Who we’re crushing on: Yassine El Mansouri (he/him/his)
Where they are based: Baltimore, MD
What catches our eye: mixed narratives - portraiture, political activism documentation, aerial/skies
It’s hard to pin down what exactly Yassine El Mansouri’s photography practice is. Ambient skies populate their instagram feed, along with stunning portraiture, architectural photography and protest images with faces blocked out in solid yellow. In utilizing both the commercial and experimental aspects of photo, he creates a multidimensional experience for viewers. Read our interview with him below:
Your video work can be described as conceptual and experimental, although those two words may not be enough to encapsulate the work that you produce, such as “Inflate, Deflate, Repeat”. For this work in particular, why the concept of inflation and deflation, and the lapse of time?
The “Inflate, Deflate” part of the title refers to states of energy. The work was conceptualized during the pandemic. A time of uncertainty, but especially a time of unavoidable introversion. I was contemplating emotions, how fast we can deflate our positive energy from a place of peace and balance, to depression or unhappiness. While in comparison, going from the latter to a more positive state of mind takes more work. “Repeat” symbolizes time and cycles. The visualization of the thought helps me be more aware of it and deal with these cycles in a more present state.
Do you ever work with other artists, or is your work primarily your own drafting and making?
My work is usually personal, and I like to get my ideas to fruition. At the same time, I do work with other artists too. I am part of a four members zerozero collective and together we work on public art installations. Plus, random projects with close friends that are artists too.
What excited you about your piece, “The Observations Piece”? What was it like to get so up close and personal with people’s attire / wardrobe?
The most exciting part of that project was the community that came together to make it happen. I didn’t realize that I will need more than 30 volunteers during the project plus all the participants that volunteered to bring their entire wardrobe to be photographed. I didn’t know what to expect, clothes are an expression of who we are or who we want to project to the outside world.
How do you come up with ideas when it comes to your installation work? Is there a specific source of inspiration that typically calls to you?
The first source for ideas are the questions I would like to answer for myself, second will be responding to the world around me. But sometimes, especially for public art, I like concepts that will appease the mind. Something that might make you smile.
What was it like being at media and celebrity heavy events? Did you feel you had to work your way up to that photographic atmosphere, or was it always something that excited you?
It is performance art plus photography. Yes, I had to work my way up, the doors weren’t open. I came to the U.S. in 2001. As an immigrant, I started working for a social photography studio in D.C., I preferred to do that than work in a restaurant. Even if I didn’t like events. But my thought at the time was to make money out of my camera. I learned to like the adrenaline and excitement that comes with it. It became a business, and I did gain the trust of people in the industry.