Steve Sabella (*1975 in Jerusalem, Palestine) is a Berlin-based artist and author of The Parachute Paradox, published by Kerber Verlag (September 2016). His first monograph Steve Sabella – Photography 1997–2014 was published by Hatje Cantz in collaboration with the Akademie der Künste, Berlin (2014), with texts by Hubertus von Amelunxen and a foreword by Kamal Boullata.
In 1997, he earned a three-year Art Photography degree at the Musrara School of Photography in Jerusalem. He then received a BA in Visual Studies at Empire State College of the State University of New York in 2007. Through a Chevening Scholarship he earned an MA in Photographic Studies at the University of Westminster, London, graduating in 2008 with a Caparo Award of Distinction. The next year, through a Saïd Foundation Scholarship, he earned his second MA in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. In 2008, Sabella received the Ellen Auerbach Award from the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.
From the late 1990s through 2007 Sabella exhibited extensively throughout Palestine, including eleven solo shows, and internationally. The year 2014 saw Sabella staging four solo exhibitions that marked a shift in his practice. Returning to considerations of the theory of the image, he divorced his own narrative from the artworks, allowing them to speak for themselves. No longer were these only autobiographical images, but rather visual palimpsests permitting multiple and divergent readings. The exhibition titles themselves articulated this progression succinctly: Fragments at Berloni Gallery, London; Layers at Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait; Archaeology of the Future at the International Center for Photography Scavi Scaligeri in collaboration with Boxart Gallery, Verona; and Independence, at Meem Gallery in Dubai.
His group exhibitions include the First Biennial of Photographers of the Contemporary Arab World at the The Arab World Institute (IMA) and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (2015); Nel Mezzo del Mezzo at the Museo Riso, Palermo (2015); View From Inside at the FotoFest Biennial, Houston (2014); and Keep Your Eye on the Wall at Les Rencontres d’Arles, Arles (2013).
Sabella was one of the commissioned artists for the exhibition Recreational Purpose at the Bahrain National Museum, in Manama (2014), as well as for Told, Untold, Retold, the inaugural exhibition of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, in Doha (2009). Here, he presented the critical installation Settlement—Six Israelis & One Palestinian. Two years prior, Sabella was also commissioned for Neighbours in Dialogue, Istanbul Collection for Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art, Sarajevo.
His work is held in the collections of the British Museum, London; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait City; Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art, Sarajevo; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Dr. Ramzi Dalloul Museum Collection, Beirut; Salsali Private Museum, Dubai; Bahrain National Museum, Manama; and in private collections.
Among the several TV documentaries and short films on Sabella’s work are Deutsche Welle’s Guest & Story by Samah Altaweel (2015); In the Darkroom with Steve Sabella by Nadia J. Kabalan (2014); Arts InSight: Who is Steve Sabella? produced by Ernie Manouse (2014); Artist of the Month featured on IkonoTV (2013); Artist of the Month featured on IkonoMENASA (2011); Europe Through Their Eyes by Ma’an TV Productions (2010); and “Jerusalem in Exile” and “Kan Yama Kan”— two episodes in the documentary project Beyond Blue & Gray by Eyes Infinite Films (2005 and 2006).
Sabella has published numerous essays and was a regular contributor to Contemporary Practices Art Journal. After using photography as his preferred medium for over 20 years, the artist has recently explored image-making through words, beginning with his memoir. The Parachute Paradox follows his upbringing in occupied Palestine, his search for liberation from within, and his developing means of resistance to the colonized imagination. Though his writing, Sabella works beyond narratives of exile. What is articulated, rather, is the human connection transcending culture and nationality, and an advocation for global citizenship.
In 2017, Sabella’s studio launched four separate book projects: the first English translation of Palestinian novelist, poet and critic Mohammed al-Asaad’s Atfal al-Nada (Children of the Dew); al-Asaad’s translation of The Parachute Paradox into Arabic; The Artist’s Curse, a series of reflections and pieces of advice on the life of an artist, published daily online; and Palestine—UNSETTLED, a photo-journey throughout Palestine during the Second Intifada with four critical texts by renowned scholars, and a recipient of the 2017 Visual Arts Grant from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture.