“To live in hearts we touch with our arts, is to never die” – In Search of Peace, Yousef Khanfar
Yousef Khanfar is an award-winning international author, photographer, and humanitarian, whose images and messages transcend the dark corridors of our world and take us to places of splendor where we can find peace and humanity.
Of Palestinian origin, Yousef was born and raised in Kuwait, where he grew up in the Middle East region exposed to images of war and violence. He needed a voice to express his inner turbulence, and photography gave him that voice. As he has said, “I have chosen to carry my camera and pen instead of guns, and promote peace around the world; I believe peace is a finer horse to ride than violence.”
At seventeen, he left for the United States, where he continues to reside and where he has found immense variety of charming sceneries. He distilled the beauty he saw around him with his camera, and as Ken Whitmire, former President of the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum said, “Out of the Arabian Peninsula, came a lone and landless photographer who has listened to and chased the light like a predator for twenty years. He has created a breath-taking and dazzling body of work.”
In 2000, his first book was published, Voices of Light, a collection of his poetic musings and fine art landscape photographs taken throughout the world. The images in this book embody the touchable and untouchable, secretive and mysteries of nature. Yousef’s photographs are at times dreamy, at times suggestive, and other times, spiritual, a journey that takes us to the intimate corners of the Gods. He said, “As a Palestinian, maybe I lost my homeland, but the whole world landscapes became my land”
The prominent award-winning photographer Phil Borges said of Yousef’s photography “I often wake up in the middle of the night when everything is dark and silent. I turn on an overhead spotlight that casts a small pool of light on the images of my favorite art books. As I slowly turn the pages, if the work is true, I am transported into the emotional field of the artist. I use these midnight sojourns to travel the emotional spectrum. When I want to immerse myself in pure tranquility and view the eloquent images of a Master, I pick up the work of Yousef Khanfar.”
In 2003, Yousef was selected and listed as one of the World’s Top Photographers by one of the most powerful organization in London, RotoVision, among only 25 other professional photographers in the world. He received the recognition with great honor and was pleased to be selected among the elite of photography.
In 2006, his second book was published, In Search of Peace, an original body of work designed as a Visual Symphony of three movements, entitled Sublime, Freedom and Divine. In this book, Yousef aims to provoke us and lead us into dialogue and awareness of humanity and ourselves. Whether the photograph projects the conflict between earth and sky, the movements and arguments of mood, or the wreckages of souls, one always hears his symphony.
The legendary and one of the most powerful photographers of the 20th century, Gordon Parks, said about his book In Search of Peace, “Freedom, truth, justice, peace and love. Mankind should have access to any one of them. With the divine honesty of words, eyes and soul, Yousef Khanfar’s compelling work urges us to reach out and embrace all five. With a camera and a pen as weapons, he roams the corridors of hatred, evil and injustice—in an attempt to destroy them. In Search of Peace is surely a fitting title. It is also Yousef’s Symphony, one that will forever play hard and deep inside the roots of universal evil.”
In 2007 his book, In Search of Peace, was the Award winner of the 2007 IP Outstanding Book of the Year, in the Most Life-Changing category. He also was selected as artist of the year by Mont Blanc to help with UNICEF (U.N) promoting literacy and education around the world.
In 2009, The Fulbright Center for Peace in Washington, DC selected his book In Search of Peace as the book of choice to be gifted in the Global Symposium of Peaceful Nations to the top peaceful Nations of the world. The book was received with great enthusiasm and excitement.
In 2013, his third book, Invisible Eve, was published by Rizzoli, New York. The book is a about voices of women from behind prison walls who are cast away and forgotten. From their own non-violent crimes and experiences, and with their own words, they share inspiration for the next generation, in the hope to prevent young girls and boys of ending up in prison. Some of their messages are insightful, powerful and some painful. They needed a voice and Yousef gave them a voice, and for the first time in their life, they felt that they are part of the solution than part of the problem.
The famous American Photo magazine said about Invisible Eve book, “Perhaps the most striking thing about Khanfar’s portraits of women who are incarcerated for non-violent crimes is their optimistic humanism…In statements accompanying the images, most of these women seem remorseful and philosophical, but not bitter, about the crimes that got them there…”
Throughout the years, Yousef Khanfar also captured the portrait of some of the most powerful and important figures of our time including Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (The U.S. Supreme Court), Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (House of Lords in London), Sir David Wynne (British Sculpture), Leona Mitchell (Opera Soprano), Tariq Ramadan (a Swiss academic, philosopher and writer), Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe (St. Monica’s Girls School, Uganda), Marina Carr (Irish writer), Antonio Grimaldi (Fashion designer), Bill Toledo (Navajo Wind Talker) and many more.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, DC., who is considered as one of the most powerful women in the history of United States, said about her portrait, “I am quite stunned and overcome with the beauty of your photograph of me. Your use of light, texture and placement makes you an amazing photographer. Your book of landscapes demonstrates magnificently how well you use light. The photograph of me, which is printed now on canvas, is superb. There is no way to thank you adequately for what you have done.”
Yousef’s work has been featured in many magazines including: Oprah, International Photo Art, Amateur Photographer, Oklahoma Today, Persimmon Hill, Photo Life, Outdoor Photographer, Nature’s Best, Soura, America Photo and many others. His art has been collected and exhibited in galleries, cultural centers, and museums worldwide, and his work is included in the permanent collection of the International Photography Hall of Fame.
Yousef’s images and messages continue to seduce us, leaving us spell-bound and perpetually fascinated by the visible and invisible shadows, by the loud and quiet chaos, by the breathing and breathless light which insists that harmony exists, and that peace is an attainable possibility.