Charif Benhelima

° 1967, Brussels (BE) – lives and works in Bruges (BE)

Charif Benhelima’s photography explores themes of origin, identity, representation, and perception, often focusing on the feeling of being an outsider. His work reflects his personal background as the son of a Moroccan father and a Belgian mother. After his father’s deportation and his mother’s untimely death, Benhelima was placed in a children’s home and later fostered by various families in the rural countryside.

Benhelima’s work is organized into series. His first series, Welcome to Belgium, documents people on the margins of society: asylum seekers, illegal immigrants, homeless children, and an addicted mother in cities like Charleroi, Brussels, and Antwerp. These are classic black-and-white documentary photos shot in 35mm. Another series, Harlem on my mind: I was, I am, features Polaroid street views and portraits mainly from Harlem’s African-American community, whose experiences with racism and discrimination prompted Benhelima to confront his own identity.

Benhelima advanced his Polaroid experiments with his series Black-Out, where everyday objects like pigeons, basketballs, and rows of trees are heavily overexposed, yet still barely visible. In Roots, he applies the same technique to plants. Over the past 15 years, Polaroid 600 has become his main medium, known for its unique quality of being both sharp and blurry at the same time. This medium allows Benhelima to play a subtle pictorial game of revealing and concealing.

Charif Benhelima
Photo by Stephan Vanfleteren

Benhelima’s approach deconstructs conventional ways of viewing subjects. He believes that the context in which a subject is photographed often provides information that overshadows the essence of the subject’s identity. By decontextualizing through overexposure or by painting away parts of the image, Benhelima neutralizes this context, highlighting the core identity of his subjects.

In 2008, Benhelima was nominated for the Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography (Harvard University/Peabody Museum) for his entire oeuvre. Parallel to his artistic research, Benhelima is also a tutor and supervisor at the Malmö Art Academy – Lund University, Sweden.

Charif Benhelima shows his work internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest; Museum of Contemporary Art Niterói, Rio de Janeiro; BPS22, Charleroi; Station Museum of Contemporary Art Houston and Bozar, Brussels

Among others, Benhelima participated in the Lubumbashi Biennale; Beaufort triennial; Marrakech Biennale; and the International Biennial of Photography in Houston. His work is currently on view as part of the Triënnale Kortrijk.

You can see more of Charif Benhelima’s work on his own website.

 

works by Charif Benhelima

Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

950,00
Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

950,00
Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

950,00
Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

950,00
Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

950,00
Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

950,00
Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

950,00
Charif Benhelima - Regeneration, 2024

Charif Benhelima

Regeneration

950,00

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