Wesaam Al-Badry is an interdisciplinary artist and investigative journalist whose work spans documentary photography, video installation, sculpture, and painting. Al-Badry’s practice revolves around interconnected themes of identity, migration, simulated wars, and excavating archives. His work addresses social and environmental issues in the U.S, the Middle East and the North African diaspora.
Born in Nasiriyah, Iraq, at the outset of the Gulf War, at the age of seven Al-Badry and his family fled to Saudi Arabia, where they lived in refugee camps for four and half years. In late 1994, they relocated to the United States.
When did you first begin to call yourself an artist?
I grew up around relatives who were painters and poets, so I had artists around me and I gravitated towards them. But I did not consider myself an artist until I came to be conscience of my social advocacy.
What inspires you to create your projects?
I am interested in creating a new visual narrative that is free from the colonial structures that artists may find themselves perpetuating.
Does your personal history inform your choice of artistic tools?
Very much so. Not only does it inform the artistic tools I use, but also my art practice.
How do you begin a new body of work?
Curiosity and a desire for justice. A lot of reading and research. And sometimes I’ll be working on one project, and something else will spark my interest. And that will become my next project because it just “feels right.”
Where will your next project take you?
For the past decade, I have been excavating archives, films, photography and memorabilia about Iraq. The new project will take me back to the studio to recreate my childhood home.
What is one thing people should know about your artistic practice?
I go back and forth between mediums to create visual narratives, using photography, film, sculpture and painting.
Do you have a favorite photograph (by you or someone else)?
One of the first images I made in Pine Ridge Reservation ( Oglala Lakota land) in South Dakota while visiting my friend’s home. The image set in motion a lot of my future work.
Can you describe an important moment from your life that was never photographed?
Most of my childhood.
What are you reading or watching right now?
- Reading: I Wonder As I Wander by Langston Hughes.
- I am watching whatever my 2 ½ year child is watching. Most days she watches Bluey, Dinosaur Train, and Monster’s University.
Can you give us a playlist of 5 favourite songs?
- Water No Got Enemy, Fela Kuti
- Baltimore, Nina Simone
- I Got The…, Labi Siffre
- Everybody Loves The Sunshine, Roy Ayers Ubiquity
- Ponta de Areia, Wayne Shorter
Wessam Al-Badry is represented by East Wing and Contact Press Images, NYC
More on Wessam:
Al-Badry earned his master’s degree in New Media Journalism at the University of California, Berkley and his Batchelor’s Degree in Fine Art from the San Francisco Art Institute. He has worked for global media outlets, Including CNN and Al-Jazeera America. Al-Badry’s photographs have been featured in the New York Time, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Atlantic, NPR, Fortune, The Nation, and Mother Jones. He has received numerous accolades including; The John Collier Jr. Award for Still Photography, The Dorothea Lange Fellowship, The Jim Marshall Fellowship for Photography, The National Geographic Society Fellowship, Magnum Foundation, and The Emerson Collective, and is currently a fellow at the Centre for Visual Documentation. He presently resides between Berkley, California and Lincoln, Nebraska in the United States.
Hear more from Wesaam Al-Badry on PBS NewsHour’s Brief But Spectacular recorded in March 2023.