New York-based Egyptian photographer Bilo Hussein visually examines what the notion of 'home' means in relation to her own life, and the lives of the women around her in her latest photography book, entitled 'Never Home'.
After purchasing a DSLR to document her move to London in 2012, Egyptian Bilo Hussein discovered her innate passion towards photography. Having garnered a large following on Instagram where she shared her shots of the city, she eventually studied at the London School of Photography to hone her craft, before being accepted into the Digital Photography Masters program at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
“I realised that the main reason I chose photography is because it was very therapeutic to me. I was trying to get over what was happening in Egypt [the revolution] and discover new worlds,” Hussein tells us of her beginnings.
Once in the States she began to lean more towards portrait photography, using her lens as a social stethoscope. “It’s the connection I get to make with my subjects. I usually try to break those barriers that people put around themselves. I ask them personal questions and try to understand where they are coming from. This allows me to dig deeper and have perspective,” explains Hussein.
Her work has garnered the attention of a drove of international photography blogs, and Hussein was awarded the semi-finalist position for the 2014 Adobe Design Achievement Awards in New York’s photography category.
Her latest project, entitled 'Never Home', which has just been published in a book, is inspired by her nomadic lifestyle, street photography and her anthropological interests. Using at first her immediate circle of friends and then approaching strangers to shoot, the series depicts the cognitive and emotional dissonance in women who are setting up their lives in a new country.
“This issue was a very personal one. It was there in my subconscious for a very long time. As a child I had a reoccurring dream that was interpreted as not being able to fit in. I somehow connected that with my move to Cairo, then London then New York and tried to make something of it.”
The portraits have an isolated dream-like feel with the women transcending their feelings through imagery layered in by Hussein after delving deep into the subjects’ experiences. “I was first inspired by those double exposure photographs that used to be made during film days. I wanted to create something similar, but that took me to creating many layers, one of which was the places that I have been to since my move to New York,” she says.
“Most of my subjects are like me, they had recently moved to New York. Some come from countries that have some sort of cultural oppression. So they are here to make a different life for themselves.”
Despite imagining life through the stories of others, Never Home is first and foremost a very personal and reflective project feeding in and evolving Hussein’s concept of home as her subjects act as a collective mirror to her own contemplations. “Through this project I've come to understand that home is not the place where you are born and it is definitely not a physical space or a passport to a certain country. I believe home is where your loved ones are and it’s where you can fit regardless of boarders.”
And the Big Apple seems to be a perfect fit for the budding photographer. “I think New York is the best place to be. I feel like I've had so much exposure in one year that it will take me a lot longer to digest. It’s great in the sense that you get to meet a lot of fantastic artists and learn about their work and experience. There is a culture for encouraging emerging artists that motivates you to produce more work and to get personal and put it out there.”
Bilo Hussein’s ‘Never Home’ is available in hardcover on Amazon here.
Check out more of her work at www.BiloHussein.com