Charif Benhelima

° 1967

Born in Brussels (BE), lives in Antwerp (BE).

Charif Benhelima was born in Brussels in 1967. He studied photography at the LUCA School of Arts in Brussels, HISK in Antwerp and the International Centre of Photography in New York. His photographs deal with identity, more specifically what it is to feel you’re an outsider. They reflect Benhelima’s own background: son of a Moroccan father and a Belgian mother. Following his father’s deportation and his mother’s death, he was placed in a children’s home and later fostered to a succession of families in the province of West Flanders. Benhelima works in series. His first series, Welcome to Belgium (1990–99), focuses on people who find themselves ‘outside society’: asylum seekers, illegal immigrants, prostitutes and homeless children in cities like Charleroi, Brussels and Antwerp. They are classic black and white documentary photos shot in 35mm. Benhelima spent time in Harlem between 1999 and 2002, where he produced a large series of Polaroid portraits titled Harlem on my Mind. The subjects of the portraits were mainly drawn from Harlem’s black community, whose experience of racism and discrimination confronted Benhelima with his own identity. ‘I was a bona fide alien in NYC, but for the first time I also felt completely Belgian. It was as if we had switched places. I was at home, even though I was no longer there physically, and it was these African-Americans who weren’t at home.’ He took his Polaroid experiments a step further in his photo series Black-Out, which Benhelima produced during his residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien (2005–06) in Berlin. The everyday objects he photographs – a pigeon, a basketball, a row of trees – are heavily overexposed but still just barely visible. 

Items View all

Events View all

Ensembles View all