Surrealism, by definition, seeks in both art and literature to harness and utilize the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images. Perhaps one of the most common, yet often poorly executed examples of this is taking full size humans and placing them in tiny settings. The final result of this type of artwork is usually a heavy handed critique of the smallness of man or a trite exploration of small things that we overlook in our day to day. With this bias in mind, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the work of talented, Moroccan artist Achraf Baznani. His experimental photography does not explore over-done ideas and instead becomes a way for him to explore personal ideas and beliefs. As you’ll see in the artwork below (as well as in the interview) he primarily uses himself as the subject indicating his focus is on better understanding himself through the surreal, rather than making a comment about the human condition. Take a look at the interview below and we hope you enjoy his artwork as much as we did.
Seeing as how you a self-taught artist, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into art, and more importantly, conceptual photography?
My name is Achraf Baznani, I was born in Marrakesh in Morocco. On any given day you can find me behind the screen of my personal computer searching and experimenting new ideas in terms of photography and art. I was drawing a lot as a kid, and I participate in local competitions, I won many prizes, because my speed in the drawing and imagining new ideas, that contributes to the success of my artworks. The result impresses the jury. I experimented then caricature; a number of national newspapers in Morocco published my drawings. But I stopped drawing for study. I started in photography since I was young, completely by chance, I got a EKTRA compact 250 for my birthday, which was intended to immortalize the good times. And finally, I was hooked. I then made several short films and documentaries, including “On”, “The Forgotten” and “Immigrant” for which I received several national and international awards, before once again opt for photography, taking advantage of my background in painting, but this time the strange and surreal photography.
Your work clearly leans into the surreal – can you tell us about why that is? What is it about the surreal that draws you in so deeply? Are there any cultural influences that have an influence on your work?
Each photographer has his or her own inspirations, and likewise each photographer will follow different methods and use different techniques. I tend to start off with a spark of inspiration. This can practically start off from anything or anywhere. I love to meet people and learn from others. In such a way I keep my inspiration alive. I believe that when one takes photography seriously, there is more than one inspiration. I have learnt from many sources and have been influenced in various ways by different photographers. If I were to mention any one in particular I would say that Robert Cappa, who is a famous Hungarian photographer, influenced me a great deal, especially with his photo titled “The Falling Soldier”. This particular photo mesmerized me when I first saw it, because it is a clear depiction of war but it is represented in a surreal way. This shot is one of the most valuable images of war in the twentieth century. That’s exactly what made me experiment with surreal and fantasy art and creating images that the human mind doesn’t believe. I think because we need a break from reality. Surrealism takes us from the real world to a dreaming one. We can recreate and share our dreams or surrealist ideas in real life through photography. When I was young I was always very obsessed with movie miniatures and movie magic and things of small scale, I used tilt-shift to create small worlds by Photoshop and then I thought to myself, why not putting myself in a small world?
The majority of your photography features you as a model – is there any reason behind this? Does using yourself as a model help convey any particular message such as the relationship between our imaginations and digital spaces?
I am trying to bring some message to the viewer, be it a political advert or a social commentary or an emotional outcry. There is some level of abstraction, thus, in my works: the image is not an explicit example of the concept, but a general expression of the idea. My artworks make healthy use of graphical symbols to represent ideas, movements, moods, anything and everything that I want to include in the message of my artwork.
Are there any projects you are currently working on that haven’t been released to the public yet? If so, can you share any details about how you envision your next piece?
“Inside My Dreams” is the first surreal art book in the Arab world. This particular art book includes a surreal photography and the model, particularly the small man presented in all of my artwork featured in this art book is nobody else but myself. I think photos are not simply shots which have been captured and produced by the camera itself, but as an interesting way to make people aware about various things and these also provide the best way to explain and show the feelings of a photographer. In “Inside My Dreams”, viewers will find a mirror that will reflect the image of their lives and the situations that they deal with and the problems that they all need to face in real life.
There will be insightful messages as well as interesting ideas that arise from those unique photos and compositions. My next book will be something unique. We work on the layout and some details, and will be released in the coming months.
Do you have any advice for aspiring abstract artists and photographers? What do you think sets a good artist apart from a remarkable one?
I think one of the most important things would be to always be yourself, and it is very important that you take things seriously. You may need to make some sacrifices in order to succeed, and you have to be as realistic as possible so as to set goals and work to achieve them. With plenty of dedication and commitment, determination and a pinch of luck, you will succeed. hard work and perseverance is the key. Never give up, no matter how hard it is. Nothing is impossible.
Are you available for commission work? Do you currently offer any of your original art pieces for sale? Moreover, have you been featured in any galleries and exhibitions that you would like to tell us about?
Yes, I am available for commission work, although creating a specific artwork that someone asks me to make is completely different from working for myself where I make whatever I want to make without any influence from others. My artist proofs are now for sale and anyone can bid on my work.
I recently published my second surreal art book titled “Inside My Dreams”, Ever since I started photography, it has always been a dream to have my photographs printed up large and posted on the wall, This will become a reality, I exhibited my work in Hungary last February, and in Germany in March, My next solo exhibition opens one of the most respected galleries in Marrakesh/Morocco, I will be there on the private view on August 25, 2015 to meet and greet! On the other hand I will continue to create new fairy worlds in my series ”Inside My Dreams”.