Driving the Car by Clara Abi Nader

Driving the car is a project by Lebanese photographer Clara Abi Nader, a photographer who slowly became passionate about photography while taking portraits of her family and entourage. Owning mostly analog cameras at the time and shooting with wide angle, she developed a sense of narrative and slowly developed an interest in the cinematic quality of the pictures she was creating. In her pictures she wants and succeeds to make the mundane interesting in her own way. Lately, that includes more introspective projects in which she portrays herself, the environment she inhabits and how it all affects her. We talked to her about it.

Hawa Chicken - Kaslik 2010 © Clara Abi Nader

KALTBLUT: How was this fantastic project born?

Clara: If you ever have the chance to visit Lebanon you will be able to see many beautiful things and live quite a special experience there but be ready for one thing: crazy drivers, old school cars and traffic, lots of traffic. Lebanon is linked from North to South with one main highway, if this highway is fucked, you are bound to drive through the mountains which will let you see some beautiful sights of course but will take you ages to get to the Beirut.

Driving every day at the same time on this highway you will realize that sometimes you will end up seeing the same people but mostly some unique things as well.

I was once stuck in traffic, feeling utterly bored, nothing good was playing on the radio, I was gazing at the people around me, listening to their conversations, the music they are playing. And then this car stopped next to me and somehow it was very appealing to me eye, the car, the woman’s scarf, the buildings behind it (Hawa Chicken in the back is a very famous chicken store in Lebanon) Luckily I had my camera on me and I just snapped a picture. I felt very nervous, my heart was beating very fast just by thinking that I would lose the moment or that the woman was going to uncover me.

After developing this roll and seeing the photo, it was like a revelation to me and this is how I decided to take this project further. I was being more aware of what kind of cars drive next to me, I was looking at the drivers and I started chasing them when it was needed. I guess you can say it’s a mix between the love for driving a car and my passion for that project.

The title refers both to me driving my car and to the people I shot a picture of, thus a journey of driving a car to nowhere.

Harissa - Jounieh 2010 © Clara Abi Nader Blue in the Sunset - Antelias 2010 © Clara Abi Nader

KALTBLUT: What was the strangest or most impressive thing you witnessed during the project?

Clara: As the project was building up and while discovering the photos I shot, it was striking to me how related the driver and his car were, physically I mean. Of course I saw something interesting in the beginning and this is why I took the shot, but I don’t really have the time to frame well and to look closely before shooting and it all made sense to me. The picture was able to show me another reality that I wasn’t aware of, that even in chaos things can look beautiful and unique, everything fits in its right place at the right moment.

Titanic - Dbayeh 2011 © Clara Abi Nader Are we in Vegas- - Dora 2010 © Clara Abi Nader

KALTBLUT: How does photography change the world for you?

Clara: I treasure photography and my cameras. I am nothing without them. Photography puts me at ease with the world, it helps me understand it and re-invent it somehow. I don’t think of myself as a street photographer but more of a wandering witness of little things happening around us. I love observing people and this is my daily inspiration. Photography makes my routine more fun and interesting I guess.

Blue Chrysler - Antelias 2010 © Clara Abi Nader

KALTBLUT: Are you working on anything at the moment?

Clara: Currently I am working on many projects that are more introspective than Driving the car is. One is called By the Window selfportaits that can be seen here https://www.behance.net/gallery/13746739/By-the-window-selfportraits-%28Work-in-progress%29 — the second is also a selfportrait series called Hide and Seek https://www.lensculture.com/projects/34821-hide-and-seek — In the first one it is more playful, I am staging myself and acting if I may say the state of mind I am in at the moment when I took the photo playing with layers and multiple meanings. In Hide and Seek I am playing with the city, I moved to Paris 3 years ago and I am looking for a way to leave a part of myself in it. Don’t you feel sometimes when you leave a place that a part of you belonged there? This is how I feel with the city and what more than nudity can bring you closer to one thing? It’s the deepest and the most truthful appearance to oneself although I am leaving some mystery in my shots.

Interview by Emma E. K. Jones


The Business Man - Zalka 2010 © Clara Abi Nader