I am a paradox - we all are. It is merely an inexorable consequence of the absurdity that subsists between the cold indifference of the world, and our poignantly fragile, interminable yearning for a narrative, a purpose with which to saturate our days. Often, these manifest little contradictions give rise to confusion, despair, and a dizzying fear of aimlessness. Yet it is this fragility itself, a plain submission to tenderness and nostalgia, distinct from and not predicated upon any further objective or pursuit, within which the greatest potential for an animated human life inheres. There is no more lucid a submission of this kind than the creation of art.
Through photography, I venture to appeal to the richness of the glimpses of beauty and sentiment that are available to us in the ordinary routines that we inhabit; to highlight the quiet madness, the little sorrows lingering amidst pleasures that are often ignored. They have a kind of poignant, melancholic charm. This endeavour tends to yield a qualitatively different perspective through which the world may be viewed: one of simplicity and curiosity, of empathy and delicacy. Purposelessness loses face, and life is dignified anew. For a photographer of this persuasion, art may often consist not in creation as much as in chronicling. The lens becomes a study of stories and the people that have participated in them, and there is a particular sort of regality, an intimacy with the world that burgeons through this interaction. It is remarkably unexacting — and extravagantly gratifying — to expose oneself to what is already taking place.
It is, however, not without its afflictions. Immersed in an environment completely independent of — and frequently indifferent to — art, it can be an elusive thing, sufficiently fleeting that one forgets its memory until its whole absence is felt profoundly and harrowingly. One aspect of the atmosphere in which I study that is easy to lose oneself in is the one in which the doctrines of quantification, mathematical precision, and logical utility supersede those of sensitivity, benevolence and warmth. Of course it is unsurprising that this transition does materialise intermittently, both in the mind and really, in the general surroundings, given the nature of my academic pursuits.
22nd October, 2016
In these new surroundings, I find I am easily becoming swept away by things that I am not as energetic about as I once imagined: they are almost the right things. I have intellectual stimulation, but I feel it comes at the cost of colour and passion.
Indeed, it is easy to tie oneself in the convoluted argument that simple curiosity is not reason enough to lavish hours in the pursuit of this art that has no material gain or foreseeable terminus. Regardless, this notion is undesirable and suspect. I still occasionally consider the possibility of ceasing with this creation for precisely this absence of purpose, but I understand that doing so would be a contradiction, and a denial of the values I cherish. Consequently, I can only hope that, in my own mind, this argument never perseveres.
2nd December, 2016
I feel that I have momentarily lost touch with beauty, but I want it in every way. I want creation, and rain, and dim lights, and poetry, and melancholy music, and wispy fabric that dances with the sun floating through it, and good films and friendship, but mostly creation and good art: real, heartfelt, breathtaking art, because it is one of the greatest things we know and beauty is the most important thing in the world.
I use my art, therefore, as a rebellion against the unfeeling, cold, hard reason that has begun to swell within me even as I seek to defy it. There is a universe of wonder and sympathy to be lived — to be recovered — from beneath the veneer of unfeeling reason and impatient ambition.
Kevin Shaabi is a photographer, writer, and musician born in India and raised in Singapore. Currently a student of Philosophy, Politics and Economics in the UK, he strives to pursue art with the same intensity as he does his academic life.