Gihan Tubbeh - Noches de Gracia

The other day I was looking over the work from photographers shortlisted for an award with a good friend and we were discussing style vs substance. Some of the pictures were visually stunning, but did this detract from the content? Was the drama and sensationalism necessary or is it more of a gimmick, one that ultimately detracts from the important issues the photography claims to address. It is my belief that the style of a photograph - it's aesthetic qualities - should compliment the content. I don't want the content to be hidden under layers of visual trickery. I want to be drawn into the world the photograph depicts and to find it rich with meaning, not just a glossy surface of visual stimulation.

Later that evening I came across the work of Gihan Tubbeh, a photographer selected to participate in this years Joop Swart masterclass - a prestigious workshop run by the World Press Photo. Her Noches de Gracia series is for me a perfect example of style mirroring content. Here the aesthetics are as visceral and decadent, as disturbing and alluring as the world they depict. The visual tricks in this series are not employed gratuitously, but with apparent purpose.

Writing about the series, Gihen states:

"Eyes are nothing but slimy beasts looking from behind"


The project presented is not intended to tell a story, it is rather an assemblage of photographs that form a grid, a puzzled group of soiled images that are read among each other, without beginning or end. If I could sum up the series in one word I would say it's about transgression. The photos document the most primitive and instinctive conditions of humanity. The tone is acid: it talks about the vulnerable excess of desire, the insatiable hunger for pleasure on the edge of suffering, about violation towards the flesh, joy throughout offense, the eternal return towards the visceral, the morbid by wounding and being wounded.

For transgression to exist, there must be awareness of good and evil, guilt, and condemnation of sin. But this knowledge is left suspended, hidden in our consciousness as a thumping secret that causes greed and temptation towards the forbidden. The body is the battleground between Eros and Thanatos, between desire and destruction; the woman is mother and destroyer, which represents masculine desire. This way, we break life’s boundaries with our bodies, resisting thirsty to nights´ pain, moving in between crime and repression.

“And the nature of pain, the pain is twice

and the status of martyrdom, carnivorous, voracious,

the pain is twice

and the role of pure prairie, the pain


and the well of being, hurting us doubly”

-César Vallejo

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