Q&A with Photographer Ramzi Mansour

INTERVIEW BY Gina Dionisio PHOTOS Ramzi Mansour

Leica Ambassador Ramzi Mansour is known for his emotive black-and-white photography. We caught up with him to find out more about his photographic process and what we can expect from his upcoming exhibition with Martin and Sam Osner titled Memoirs of Light.

When and how did you first get into photography?

I had always been interested in pictures and movies, in the visual arts, you could say. During the pandemic, I picked up a camera one day and started playing around with taking photos of my family. I had plenty of time on my hands so I used the opportunity to immerse myself in photography and studying light which appeals to me.

How would you describe your work in four words?

Raw, sensual, authentic, emotive.

What draws you to capturing the human form? Have you always preferred capturing people over objects or spaces?

The core essence of my photography to date is really about capturing the emotion in my subject. I dabbled with different forms of photography, including landscapes and nature shots, but I kept coming back to the connection between myself and another human being. This really inspired me to create artworks within my photographs.

You manage to capture a sense of intimacy and emotion in your work. How do you go about approaching a subject?

The process for me is about creating a safe environment where honesty is foregrounded as we explore vulnerability within the framework of what we are creating. I try to be as authentic as possible to allow the subject to reciprocate the emotion we are working towards.

How do you work to get the best out of your subjects?

I think of every subject as my wife, my daughter, my mother or sister. If it’s a photo that I wouldn’t take of them, then I won’t take it of my subject. This integrity is the anchor to my process. I earn their trust where they feel safe and comfortable to explore the emotional requirement we need for the photograph. And we laugh a lot on set!

Whose work do you admire?

I really admire Peter Lindbergh’s work for the chic storytelling in his work; Vincent Peters for his sensational portraits and use of light; and Allan Schaller for his ground-breaking street photography style and his mastery of geometric shapes.

What is the concept behind Memoirs of Light?

The concept was to create a timeless and ethereal body of work that would showcase the raw vulnerability of the human condition through a modern female aesthetic and, ultimately, to tell the story of hope through light.

How did this exhibition come about? 

I wanted to challenge myself to stretch beyond my signature black-and-white style to mixed media fine-art photography. It just so happened that the Osner Gallery were looking for someone to represent in that particular space and so it was a serendipitous meeting of minds. I was taken aback by the authenticity of Martin and Sam Osner and knew that this match would allow all of us to grow and create something special.

What was the most challenging aspect of creating work for this exhibition?

Thinking outside the box, for sure. Going from a photographic still to being able to incorporate my signature photographic DNA, but now in an art form – it is something very new for me. This required a new level of vulnerability for me; trusting that I could not only include my fundamental form but also transcend it to a fresh, unknown outcome.

What’s your best piece of advice for the amateur, everyday photographer?

I have three pieces of advice: The best camera you’ll ever have is the one on you; as long as your intention is pure, don’t worry about the outcome; and trust is earned not given.

Any exciting projects coming up for the latter half of 2023?

My wife, Nicole, and I have been talking about producing another book. We released Resilience, a not-for-profit book exploring the journeys of South African women living with cancer, in 2021. Perhaps looking at doing an exhibition in Europe. But for now, spending time with my wife and children and enjoying every moment that this rollercoaster of life offers. 

Memoirs of Light featuring works by Ramzi Mansour, Martin and Samantha Lee Osner is on from 16 March until 8 April 2023 at The Argyle in Woodstock, Cape Town.

Looking for more local art? Sign up to our weekly newsletter, here.