Shattered Self-Portrait © 2015 Safi Alia Shabaik
Common themes in my practice include identity, gender, persona, subculture, and the humanity of all people. My work investigates worlds that the viewer may never choose to enter or even know exist … worlds that might push boundaries, thresholds or be regarded as culturally unacceptable parts of life. Whether turning the camera on myself or photographing others, I explore this subject matter to enlighten myself and my viewers to the fact that, underneath it all, we are all human. We must choose to open our eyes and expand our minds to understand and embrace difference. Once we do, walls that divide us crumble; we recognize the humanity in each of us and feel a common bond. When we feel connected we have a larger capacity for understanding and love.
Safi Alia Shabaik discovered art and photography at an early age, when her mother enrolled her in a pinhole camera class at the California Museum of Science and Industry. She attended UCLA, earning her B.A. in Fine Art with honors. Since then, she has worked as a fashion stylist and photographic documentarian, and has lived in both New York and Los Angeles. Post-college, while still in Los Angeles, Catherine Opie became her mentor and taught her the art of large scale color printing in her custom-built darkrooms. While in New York, Safi became fashion stylist, photographic documentarian, personal assistant, travel companion, and confidante to the legendary icon, Ms. Grace Jones, in her personal and public life. Safi was given free rein to photograph anytime they were together.
Throughout her life, Safi’s work has been about identity, persona, subculture and the humanity of all people. Her subject matter moved from the public realm to the private, when she became a caregiver for her father who was beginning to exhibit symptoms of disease. Personality Crash: Portraits of My Father Who Suffered from Advanced Stages of Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia and Sundowner’s Syndrome, her most recent series, is a riveting, collaborative body of work that explores the human condition from an intimate perspective, focusing on her father’s journey up until his death. These intense, beautiful black and white images comprise the artist’s highly personal story but also serve as a universal reminder of what it means to be human.
Safi has exhibited her work in both solo and group shows nationally. She has been featured in The New York Times, Journal of Alta California, CameraCraft, Catalyst: Interviews, VoyageLA, The Advocate, Upworthy.com and on The Candid Frame. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, on the cover of Artillery Magazine, and in performer Grace Jones’ book I’ll Never Write My Memoirs. She is a founding member of the Los Angeles Street Collective, a charter member and teaching assistant at the Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) as well as a volunteer in the Fossil Lab at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. A lover of the human form, the artist is also an award-winning mortician.