DPP Home Profiles Philip Habib: Starting With A Blank canvas

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Philip Habib: Starting With A Blank Canvas

Philip Habib’s use of color, composition and whimsy in his portraits gives his photos a youthful and exuberant look

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"I like very simple and graphic images," says portrait and still-life commercial photographer Philip Habib. "I like strong color." As you can see from this image, captured at Coney Island, Habib distills his compositions to repeating shapes and colors, reducing a scene to its graphic essence. It gives his content a fine-art depth while the personalities of his subjects and the absurdity of the overall scene counter with quite a bit of humor.

Though New York-based photographer Philip Habib has been plying his trade for three decades, his style is cutting-edge contemporary while retaining a classic elegance. It's youthful without being adolescent. Habib's work is polished and stylized, and when people are his subject matter, the resulting portraits reveal his ability to tap into the inner souls of the sitters or standers before his lens.

In the spirit of Irving Penn, with a splash of Andy Warhol's colors thrown in, Habib's unique ability to create award-winning imagery in both people and still-life photography has been used effectively in the fine-art and commercial worlds with clients ranging from Smirnoff and Schweppes to Canon and Sony.
I like very simple and graphic images, and I like strong color. I love the work of Andy Warhol. Bill Brandt was a huge influence on me at one stage. Jeanloup Sieff, as well.
DPP:  You were educated in London, Paris and Milan. How does that play into your style?

Philip Habib:  My work is quite eclectic. Also, the subject matter I choose for personal projects is influenced by my European background, for example, my series "The Future of America" on sororities and fraternities here in the United States. I came here and saw this phenomenon that doesn't exist in Europe. It's an American institution. I was really interested in it because it's this little gap between leaving home and the workplace. It's a place where teenagers develop and find themselves. The only rule is that they keep their grades up. I kind of feel like I missed out on that experience in Europe. By documenting it, I'm getting a sense of it. The only thing I knew about the subject up until then was from the movie Animal House with John Belushi. I discovered that a lot of the fraternity houses are pretty much just like that.

DPP:  What are you going to do with this body of work?

Habib:  I would like to create a book and a touring exhibition. In 10 years' time, I would like to document the same students in their homes or work environments, which is going to be very different than their school ones.


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