Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 19, No. 4, 2020
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Robert J. Lewis
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Alexandra Daigle writes about the arts and lifetyle at

Part fashion designer, part comic book aficionado, Haris Nukem is one of the most imaginative and evocative photographers to emerge in recent years. Influenced by the renaissance artist Caravaggio, his work is said to be a passionate study of the human spirit in the 21st century. He loves fairy tales, mythology, rebels, freckles, tattoos, body hair and granular textures. He was born in 1989 in Bosnia, which was then still part of Yugoslavia, and left as a political refugee to United Kingdom which granted him asylum. He said in a an interview that Croatia is still his favourite place on earth, and that the cobbled medieval art district of Rovinj is his favorite art center: “I love to see people making what they can with what they have. That spirit of creation runs through everyone.”

Growing up, he used to watch Jay-Z, Gary Vee, Tony Robbins and Nipsey Hussle’s interviews. They gave him the push to dedicate himself to visual art.

Early in his career Nuke worked as a photographer for record labels and artists such as Defected Records, IAMDDB, Dennis Sultan, Badass B and Jordan Stephens.

He said that David Fincher shaped his outlook on color and image and that he wanted to create that same level of communication: “but just concentrating on performance, depth and color. Some things require lots of pre-production but most of my work happens quite naturally.”

Fine Art and Dark Beauty Portrait Photography (2018) turned Nuke into a household name. Inspired by the book Tribe by Sebastian Junker, his photos feature tribal piercings and tattoos, the first effect of which is to highlight natural indigenous beauty while revealing how unfounded is western dismissal of the African cultural aesthetic.

Touching upon hedonism, online trolls, social media, fame and the fragility of public services, “Faith”(2019) propelled Nuke towards a global audience. Exhibited in London’s Shoo, it explores the concept of moral and spiritual conviction and what the meaning of faith signifies in the interconnected world we live in. Though spiritual iconography and mythic narratives Nuke’s photography juxtaposes romantic and classical imagery with a socially conscious, urban aesthetic. He said: “In our increasingly secular world, ‘faith’ is an exploration of the pockets in which to place our beliefs.” His models are often portrayed as heroes and gods, biblical and mythological icons inside of contemporary settings.

The price of the exhibition was to “pay what you can afford,” where all the proceeds went towards the charity Help Refugees. Nuke’s two main art dealers are Maddox Gallery and Woodbury House and his unique pieces can be found and sold on Art net.

Nuke said in a Lowdown Magazine interview that the most important thing for him is to make sure a photograph has a strong intention and connects with the audience. His work happens quite naturally, without much need for a high level of pre-production. However he spends most of his time building relationships with his models to get to know them better. For example, one of his models named Kiki was born in Nigeria and escaped a life of child slavery by emigrating to the United Kingdom. She has started a new life by becoming a dancer. In one of her photographs, she is dressed in her native Nigerian finery worn by West African Queens, while raising a teacup demonstrating her new British life. The compelling contrast between these two cultures can be seen below to the right.

Nuke has also recently published his first hard-copy book Ten Days at the Mandrake (2020), where his photographic work is listed as a time capsule. The book is accompanied with poetry written by Charlotte Rose. The book includes 36 photo-stories shot at the London Hotel, with every new page telling a new story and theme: religion, death, belonging, madness etc. Another one of Nuke’s recent projects was a solo show called “Humans” at London’s NR Project Art spaces in summer 2019. The show focused the beauty that emerges when individuals are willing to free themselves from society’s norms.

The young artist has had an impressive beginning to his career. In just five short years, Nuke has become one of the United Kingdom’s most highly admired contemporary artists. Many articles and applications have recognized his achievements and have shared his artwork. Applications such as Interest and websites such as Art net have highlighted Harris Nuke’s talent by sharing his artwork pieces. His photographs start conversations, and give people access to a world that isn’t theirs.

All Photos©Haris Nukem


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Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
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