“Often we can feel quite incubated inside of the civilisations we live in, and I don’t think we ever consider how fragile they are. What photographers do is help us understand how lucky we are”. - Haris Nukem
Haris Nukem originally came to London as a young asylum-seeker and has emerged as an unstoppable and authentic voice in the field of photography and beyond. His photographs capture the power, strength and vulnerability of the human spirit through a bold take on contemporary portraiture. His compositions are often highly staged with each detail possessing symbolic meaning, engaging with themes such as belonging, identity and contemporary politics.
Born in Bosnia in 1989 and coming to the UK as a refugee, Nukem currently lives and works in North London. He was a creative child with an interest in different mediums. He had a job as a photographer in publishing for a range of magazines such as Beautiful Bizarre, Mixmag and Lockdown. He has also worked for notable brands shooting commercial campaigns, including Selfridges, BOY London, Twister Tailor, Glitterbox and Without Prejudice. Nukem has also been involved in many musical collaborations with record labels and artists, including Defected Records, Good Soldier, Warner Music, Universal, IAMDDB, Dennis Sulta, Jordan Stephens and Badass B.
In 2019, the photographer directed a campaign for Visit Britain that focuses on the benefits of living in London for young creatives. He directed the recent music video of English rock band, The Hunna. Nukem first exhibited with Maddox Gallery in 2019 with his show Faith (2019), which raised funds for the charity Help Refugees. Activism remains a key driving force behind Nukem’s practice. For the photographs in the body of work Faith, he tackled key themes of rebellion, intimacy and the power in the collective. His highly dramatised compositions arrange his subjects in unusual settings, such as hallways and bathtubs. The individuals often have tattoos, piercings, body hair and are shown exposed, as a reflection of vulnerability and encouragement to embrace our flaws as strength. In his tonal palette, Nukem cites art historical influences such as the Renaissance painter Caravaggio, which is echoed in his use of shadow and strong contours. Every position, angle and detail is imbued with allegorical meaning in his photographs, composed with artistic precision.
His intimate portraits juxtapose historic and contemporary ideals of beauty as well as contrast the politics of Old and New, celebrating the everyday heroes of today. His photograph Counting Blessings (2019) from a recent series depicts an NHS worker with a cyborgian arm holding a golden child with a motif of a gloria around her head. His daring works merge art historical iconographies with futuristic traits, collapsing the past, present and future together into arresting meditations on tragedy, emotion and humanity. His subjects tend to be almost exclusively women, which he says is a reflection of the largely female-driven fashion industry and a gesture of celebration.