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Capturing Moments in Motion With Sonia Hamza

A digitally manipulated photograph of a street in Paris
Nuances of Small Steps 07, Nuances Des Pas Perdeus, 2023,

With a desire to replace or evolve from a traditional method of capturing moments with the use of painting, several artists and scientists began exploring the idea of projecting images. While the purpose of photography has evolved over time with artists using it to capture static artistic moments in real life or concepts with stories behind them. Can photographs move and remain in motion? That duty affirmatively lies with a video camera, however, French Moroccan art photographer Sonia Hamza eliminates the element of staticity and employs motion in her images.

Sonia’s journey into the field of art began as a fashion designer who would photograph elements or concepts in real life to use them as inspiration to create designs. However, when her younger brother, who was a photographer, lent her his photography equipment, Sonia began using it to experiment with her newfound artistic style. From her Lomography toy camera to a secondhand digital camera she purchased from Japanese flea markets, Sonia began documenting life in Tokyo, Japan.

Triptych photographs of streets of Tokyo, Japan
Poem 09, Nippon Kiss Series, 2013 - 2015

The city of Tokyo held a deeper meaning to the artist as she began her full-time career in art photography in the city and began her first long-term project called ‘Nippon Kiss’. The series of works captures the lives of Japanese people who are trying their best to fit into perfectionist standards and submit themselves to hustle culture. Sonia called her works an autobiography since it documented the lifestyles, moods and actions of people on a daily basis. As a fashion designer, she used her designed pieces to narrate stories and concepts of life, when she shifted her medium of artistic expression from using a needle to a camera, she translated her ambition in photography more perspicuously.

Triptych photographs showing a red temple column, budding flowers and candle light
Poem 08, Nippon Kiss, 2013 - 2015

Sonia’s photographs are often seen to be in constant motion, with streaks of light passing through the streets or the hazy effect caused by people walking in public places or performing an activity. Stationary objects like a glowing candle or a flowering plant may appear static, but to our knowledge, they are engaged in a process. Her work ‘Poem 06’ from the series ‘Nippon Kiss’ for example, showcases a candle slowly burning and illuminating its surroundings, a plant still in the process of growth and a door that is in the process of maintaining security from the external world. Often overlooked elements like words indulged in the constant process of communication with readers or buildings maintaining a strong foundation to support people and assets are very evident throughout all of her series.

photograph of a glass building reflecting the streets during a festival
Unusual Lisbon 5, Unusual Lisbon Series, 2016

The photographer employs a unique image transfer process that utilizes a photosensitive product and relies on the exposure of the image to UV light or sunlight. She finds great fascination in how natural sunlight, as a source of energy, brings vitality to her artwork. However, she encountered challenges in the rendering process, making this method relatively uncommon. As a result, her recent series titled "Unexpected Lisbon" stands as the sole collection of black and white photographs created using this particular technique.

As an artist, Sonia still considers herself to be on the stage of experimentation and exploration. While the image transfer process happens to be one of her experiments and a process she believes that she needs to be better at, there were events that have helped unravel new concepts in photography. Her residency at 59 Rivoli in 2011, proved to be a life-changing and magical experience as she could interact with a group of like-minded artists who inspired and motivated her to pursue her field as an artist in textile sculpture, painting and photography. The exhibition that followed after the residency led to the showcase of her artistic diversity when it comes to expressing herself through different mediums.

Another one of her enlightening experiences that helped her enhance her craft was when she went on a trip to Bangkok. The photographer had the fortunate opportunity of crossing paths with Mr Manit Sriwanichpoom, a highly respected photographer and the proprietor of the esteemed Kathmandu Photo Gallery in Bangkok, Thailand. This encounter proved to be a pivotal moment in her career, as Mr Manit generously shared his extensive knowledge and provided invaluable guidance regarding her craft as a photographer. Under his guidance, she delved deeper into the art of photography, gaining insights into various aspects of the field. His profound understanding of the medium and his own artistic journey inspired her to explore new horizons, pushing the boundaries of her creativity.

Digitally manipulated photograph of the streets of Paris
Nuances Des Pas Perdeus 20, Nuances Des Pas Perdeus Series, 2023

After going through a tragic time during the Coiv 19 Pandemic, the artist began finding fresh perspectives and inspiration. She wanted it to be a turning point in her career because she aimed at breaking barriers and rules of her work and create something different. This led her to document the streets of Paris to capture blur and movement which led to the release of her series “Nuances Des Pas Perdus”. The series, unlike her past works, inculcated an element of vibrancy, visual movement and a radiant interplay of light. The series saw an immediate greater evolution in her practice. She also released her works to the world soon after her documentation to test the response from her audience. While she calls the hastiness unusual, it yielded a beautiful reaction from her viewers.

“Its a new strength for me, because usually I take much more time to show my work and to understand what is good or wrong and how to develop it. That time, I followed my instinct more than I usually do. I dared to show my works and the response was really good” - Sonia Hamza

Looking ahead, Sonia's artistic journey is focused on capturing and documenting the diverse tapestry of human experiences across various cities and cultures. With each new project, she strives to evolve her photographic practice, continuously pushing the boundaries of her creativity. Central to her approach is a deep commitment to understanding the unique cultural contexts of the cities she explores. Sonia immerses herself in the intricacies of each locale, studying its history, the choreography between the remnants of the past and the vibrant present, and even familiarizing herself with the local language. This dedication allows her to provide viewers with authentic and multifaceted perspectives, enabling them to engage with her photographs on a more profound level.

By delving into the essence of a city and its people, Sonia creates visual narratives that encapsulate the spirit of a place. She seeks to capture the nuances of human experiences, the emotions, and the stories that unfold against the backdrop of different cultures. Through her lens, she aims to transcend the superficial and offers glimpses into the universal threads that connect us all.

As she embarks on this ongoing journey, Sonia remains open to new encounters, willing to embrace the unexpected, and ready to learn from the diverse communities she encounters. With her continued dedication to cultural understanding and her unwavering passion for storytelling, she endeavours to create evocative images that inspire and resonate with viewers, fostering a deeper appreciation for our shared humanity.

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