Zeitgeist: Asafe Ghalib

Asafe Ghalib uses his photography practice as a means of looking outside of himself and lifting up the people around him, resulting in powerful yet intimate portraiture

Each year, as part of the Photography Annual, Creative Review’s editorial team selects five photographers that have made an impact over the past 12 months as our Zeitgeist winners

Brazilian artist Asafe Ghalib sees photography as an opportunity to explore the communities he encounters, particularly the spectrum of queer people and immigrants in his adopted home of London. 

“My father’s a musician – he’s a gospel singer, actually. He was always motivating me to paint, to sing, to write songs. So I actually started feeling like a creative person through painting,” Ghalib says of growing up in Rio de Janeiro. “I used to try everything; in school I used to paint, I liked to create sculptures and collect little pieces of plastic and put it together. Nowadays I see I was just trying to see myself from the outside, that sort of thing. To feel who I am as a person.”

Ghalib identifies as queer and it was personal, cultural and linguistic opportunities that brought him to London at the age of 23. “Because I came from a very religious background, and my father is a pastor … in one way he was very supportive of my creative side, but he wasn’t supportive of my existence, or our existence as a community. So that [drove] my decision to leave my country, because it was very difficult to live there surrounded by this very religious environment,” he continues. “One of the reasons why I came here is because I felt it was a very plural place to live. I chose London because of the music scene, because of the movies, all that kind of stuff. I thought it would be a nice place to learn English and also to learn who I am as a person and figure that out.”

Top: Portrait of author Shon Faye; Above: From the series Ungodly Hour. All images © Asafe Ghalib