Haneem Christian celebrates the abundance of genres through his sensitive photographic portraits

Haneem Christian is a queer, non-binary visual poet from Cape Town, South Africa. Working in medium format photography and more recently in directing, it is truly the truth that is at the center of Haneem’s creative practice. Between mediums of imagery, their work celebrates the lives and experiences of queer and trans black and brown people, and covers a wide range of themes; from chosen family, abundance and joy between the sexes, to forgotten stories, to loss and grief. A guiding principle for Haneem is to explore the parallels between their own experiences and those of their co-workers. Thus, their creative practice has become an “extension of my created truth with others whose truths align very deeply with mine.”

This deeply collaborative creative process is a powerful element in Haneem’s images. “I’m not here to take,” they say, stressing the importance of recognizing the limitations of the people they photograph and prioritizing how collaborators feel most about themselves. “I am just a mirror, here to reflect strength and beauty.” To do this, Haneem is careful not to approach a new project with an “aesthetic” in mind. They start with a “feeling” and work carefully to establish a ground of mutual understanding with a collaborator. A project then develops organically with the two individuals exploring their common connection.

This painstaking process is particularly successful in Haneem’s series She, a project that explores “what it would be like if we could be anyone we choose to be”. For the creator and his collaborator in this case, River Moon, it came to fruition as a four-part project with a celebration of the abundance of genres at its heart. Over the course of a multi-day shoot, Haneem brought all four sides of River Moon’s identity to life. The project includes an image that imagines River Moon as a bride, draped from head to toe in a white dress. Such bridal majesty finds sensual contrast in an image, Barbie Dreams, where we meet another character from River Moon. Dressed in a sweet baby pink, River Moon fixes the viewer with a confident and sensual gaze. By celebrating these contrasting facets of their subject matter, the project brings to life “images that once lived only in the depths of his imagination,” Haneem explains.

Michael E. Marquez