Sarah Bahbah Turns Her Lens on the Millennial Condition
Name: Sarah Bahbah
Hometown: Perth, Australia
Now lives: A one-bedroom “creative sanctuary” in West Hollywood, Calif., filled with art and fluffy pillows.
Claim to fame: Ms. Bahbah is an Australian visual artist known for her cinematic, color-saturated photographs of young women, as well as the heartthrob actors Dylan Sprouse and Noah Centineo. She also runs Possy, a creative agency in Los Angeles, through which she directed a music video for Kygo, a rising Norwegian D.J., and created an ad campaign for Gucci’s Guilty cologne.
“My art is birthed from the deeply challenging and sacred act of giving myself permission to be vulnerable during adversity,” she said, “and allowing the pain from my trauma’s and experience to simply exist without my conditioned impulse to repress, disassociate or escape.”
Big break: In 2014, while she was an art director at a small ad agency in Melbourne, Ms. Bahbah released a 26-part photo project on Instagram called “Sex and Takeout,” which captures young women in various states of undress indulging in food without restraint. She received more than 50,000 new followers the next morning and dozens of interview requests.
“I quickly watched the body of work circulate around several media outlets, international art fairs, and countless social media accounts for the next five years,” she said, “turning my art career from side hustle to full-time artist.”
Latest project: Last month, she released “3eib,” an Instagram project that features 31 photos and a video of herself reciting a poem she wrote about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. 3eib, which describes shame in Arabic, is her most vulnerable work yet. “In my previous work, I revealed my trauma but hid myself behind other bodies because I was not ready to completely expose myself to my corrupted standards of Western beauty and the violence of shame stigmatized by my Arab culture,” Ms. Bahbah said.
Next thing: Ms. Bahbah is working on a second installment of “Sex and Takeout,” this time featuring three Black trans women. She also plans to start a clothing company called Lazy Cake, featuring sweatsuits embroidered with quotes and sayings pulled from the subtitles used in her previous photo series, such as “Wine is the only one I can trust.” “When you wear this sweatsuit, you’re essentially giving yourself permission to rest, to be lazy, to do absolutely nothing, or eat what you want without guilt or shame,” she said.
Open book: As a Palestinian woman raised in the suburbs of Perth, Australia, Ms. Bahbah struggled with identity and self-expression. She turned to art as a way to process her experiences and heal. “My art is birthed from the deeply challenging and sacred act of giving myself permission to be emotionally transparent,” she said.
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