INFOCUS Linda Zahra

In this article we would like to introduce a talented woman with Syrian roots. Born in Salamieh, life took her to Moldova and then to Vienna, where she currently lives. She attended courses in makeup design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Moldova from 2000 to 2004.In addition, she has worked as a makeup designer, photographer and production manager on various film projects (A Little Sun, 2007; Damascus City Symphony, 2009; Faraway, so Close to Homeland, 2013; The Wooden Rifle, 2013). A few years ago we had the opportunity to hit up and make the acquaintance of Linda. She has remained in our memories to this day and we would like to take this opportunity to give you an insight into Linda Zahra.

Victor Hugo says: “The one who open a school, close a prison.”

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How was your Lockdown?
In the time of the Corona epidemic, when isolation turned into a difficult reality and imposed on everyone, it was necessary to find a way to survive on both levels; psychological and physical. The book was the best friend!

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy being able to tell and express the stories of the people I meet in my daily life whom they trust me.

I do the job honestly and professionally trying to capture all the beautiful and intimate moments which they want to share with me.

How did you find your personal style? How can you afford your life as an artist?
As many artists working in Europe I face difficulties to fund my projects and I think the national cultural associations should play bigger and better role in this perspective by supporting the independents migrating art and facilitating the means to establish civilized dialogue between different cultures.

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How it all began? How did you start?

Initially, I worked as a makeup designer in some short films and also worked as an executive producer for some documentaries, but I discovered that it’s not exactly what I wanted. I bought my first Nikon in Damascus and I began to shoot, the city, the people, my family, everything! My relationship with the camera began with my desire to share the stories that I know or I’ve been through with others, so the picture for me is a story. In other words, every picture must have something to say, or to shed light on a specific issue … the picture is a mirror of the reality. I’ve always wanted to search for the truth by asking questions through the pictures that I take, and that needs a specific point of view of the subject that I want to portray, as each subject takes another meaning with different photographic angle, light and shadows. So, photography for me is an attempt to discover reality, to discover myself.

What inspired you to start working toward creating art?

In general, I am so much interested in humanitarian issues. As an artist, I feel myself committed above all to tell the truth, and conveying the suffering and pain of people to the whole world. Also, as a Syrian photographer, I am concerned with what is happening in my country, and I find photos are powerful medium of expression that can convey everything and reach the whole world. A single image can express more than a thousand words..

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How would you describe your style/ art?

The complex societal issues attract me, and I devote my work to investigate and search for the truth. What always concerns me is to express any topic appropriately. For long time I used to shoot just in white and black, perhaps my mind was at that time just combined with these two colors. So black and white images seemed as if they were cut out of a dream that took the form of a reality experienced by me. In this respect, black and white were better capable of telling the truth, more credible at the artistic level and more daring in breaking through the human psyche and consequently stripping it off in front of the camera lens.
Sometime the colorful image is more appropriate and able to convey reality. Also, I photograph classic portraits and sometimes I use collage.
I try to make photographs which also carry an essential major element which is the invitation to think. I think my photos are not images taken from reality randomly, but they are made from a specific perspective to capture the movement through time thus inviting us to question what was before and what will come later on!

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What are your studio days typically like?

I do not own a private studio, and my relationship with photography is close to that of plastic art. To me the whole world is my white page, the camera is my brush, and through it I am able to express my thoughts.

How much time do you spend on to be an artist?
I am always working on developing myself and my skills through reading and learning about everything new.

How is being an Artist where you live?

Austria was for me for example a new and difficult experience at the same time. We were forced to leave our country so it wasn’t easy to find myself suddenly in a strange world, everything was different, the people, the color of sky, the taste of the coffee, the shape of the morning. But as a photographer I decided to combat my exile, fear, sadness and nostalgia with my camera and by making more photos. I began to discover Vienna through my lenses, so for me things are 135mm, 85mm, 50mm and by this way I began to break the distance between me and the city. I began to break the silence, and my photos started to talk!

What is the creative culture scene like?

As a person and as an artist, I care very much about what is going on around me, I follow everything, news, social media. The cultural scene in Vienna is very rich and creative. I’ve seen a lot of inspiring art works by amazing artists.
Photography is an art, and the task of art is to express the human being and its surroundings and try to discover and communicate with others. I am not an isolated person; my camera helps to establish my relationship with both life and people. The camera is my weapon in the face of fear, nostalgia, time and exile!

What are some of your goals for 2021? What’s next?

I am looking for some funds for my current project which I have been working on for some time. It deals with violence against women, but from a different point of view and with a different approach.

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If you were allowed to meet a famous person, living or dead: Who would it be and why?

Gibran Khalil Gibran fascinates me because he is a rebellious great writer. He was a world-renowned Lebanese American poet, author, visual artist, and journalist. In addition to his literary and artistic career, Gibran is also considered a philosopher who harmoniously mixed Western philosophy and the Middle Eastern philosophy he absorbed during his youth. His poetic writing style affects the way I see reality around me.

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Being able to look forward it’s in itself a blessing!

Why are you most grateful for three things in your life?

  • I am grateful because I am a strong, rebellious and a brave woman who is able to face difficult circumstances and challenges in life.
  • Also because I enjoy a mental and physical health.
  •  I appreciate because that I have home and a family.
  •  I am thankful to all the people who have been through my life, all the circumstances I have been through, to every book I read, without them I would not have been what I am today.

 What was the best decision in your artist’s life and career?

One of the most important decisions in my life on a professional level was changing my profession from makeup design to photography, which had a great impact on me. I am much confident to move forward to achieve what I want.

What question have you not had an answer to lately and were able to find it?
I wonder often, how the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad managed to destroy a whole country, killed thousands of innocent people and displaced half of its nation! I think I’ll never know the answer!

What work did your parents have in mind for you?

My parents weren’t thinking of anything specific! I had the freedom to choose what I wanted to be in the future.

What couldn’t you do without in your life?

  • I don`t wanna live without my family because it’s the safest and secure place for me.
  •  I live without my camera is hard because it’s my weapon in the battle of life! I fight fear and nostalgia with my camera.
  •  I can not live without reading; it’s my daily spiritual food.

If you could choose a country: Which one would you like to live in?

I choose the sunniest place on earth!

If your life were filmed, what actor would play you?

I will choose Sharon Stone. I like her way of acting. She has a strong and strict personality. She is an attractive beautiful woman as well!

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If you were allowed to change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I do not have supernatural power to change the world overnight, changing the world is everyone’s responsibility and it’s not an individual responsibility, so I think, when we know what we do and work truly to develop our experiences and ourselves, only then the world begin to change for the better.

If you were a food: what would it be?

I think I might be pistachios …
Pistachios have an outer hard shell that protects it and does not break easily and you need an effort to reach the heart!

It is similar to my personality. I might look sometimes strict and conservative but I am easygoing person with a good heart!

How often do you look at your cell phone every day?

I always check my smartphone because I like to be updated about everything around me; I need to know what’s going on in the world, cultural events, social events and political changes.

Why would you get up in the middle of the night? What decision in your life would you like to undo in retrospect?

I wake up in the middle of the night to reassure that my children are sleeping well. All my decisions in life come after a deep long process of thinking, trying to analyze all the details and study all the consequences.

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What is your next project?

Women in Arab world and Middle East have always had much less power than men. The combination of legislative laws, sharia, and traditional practices leave women vulnerable to discrimination, violence, and continue to forbid them from obtaining equal rights to men, and prevent them from playing their natural role in building a healthy society. Therefore, I am very much attached to the women human right’s movements and I did a couple of projects dealing with Violence against women by society (customs and traditions) or domestic violence.

I currently prepare for a photography project which sheds the light on this topic because I think recently and due the corona virus crises the domestic violence against women has raised a lot and the restrictions that limited the women abilities of free and equal living has been increased. As an artist, I find myself obliged to talk about these women and give them a face through my photographs.

What would you do if you had infinite money?

If I have a lot of money, I will work to open free schools for children in all parts of the world, because they are the first important factor to build a better society and a better world.
Victor Hugo says: “The one who open a school, close a prison.”

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If you had three wishes: What would they be?

  • To meet my mother, whom I have not seen in ten years.
  • To find a stable job that suits me as an artist and guarantees me a decent life.
  • Finding good funding to implement and support my new project on violence against women.

What’s something that gives you hope for the future?
I am satisfied when I look on my past. I’ve been through a lot of bad and good experiences, and I look always forward.
Being able to look forward it’s in itself a blessing!

Thank you for the interview. We wish you all the best for your future life, look forward to working with you again, and dear readers inside, we look forward to you coming back and visiting us again.