Imran Suleiman’s Balloon Project is About Documentation and Catharsis

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Tracking his younger sisters’ growth, Suleiman gives us an intimate look at the mind of an artist.

Imran Suleiman works in multiple mediums–text, film, photography–but his latest photo series, The Balloon Project is perhaps one of his most intimate. His photos and captions for the project come together to tell a sad and sweet story about growing up and sibling connections. Shot entirely around his home in London, Suleiman portrays a world of bright light and reservation. His sunlight glows just beyond the horizon, blanketing his photos in warm tones.

We spoke with him about his process and his motivations behind this latest project.

Kajal: What inspired the Balloon Project? It focuses on your young sisters, but it’s not just about them is it?

Imran Suleiman: The motivation for the Balloon Project was just in spirit of documentation really. My little sisters are growing up fast and I want to do as many projects with them that help them learn about adversity in life and letting go of emotions, the balloon project is a drop in the ocean of things I want to do in the near future.

Without sounding pretentious, I’m a minimalist at heart and so telling the story of catharsis with balloons was a perfect combination. Telling it through a series of photos however, is just something I wanted to experiment with, I think it worked quite well. I was reading a book of Muhammad Ali’s boxing career last year that was 80% photographs and 20% text and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Short lines of text in each respective image followed by a photograph is an extremely relaxing way to read a story, who would have thought.

What did your sisters think of the project when you showed them?

My little sisters used to hate me putting their pictures out on the internet but they’ve kind of grown accustomed to it in recent times because they’ve recognised photography as a genuine passion of mine, and I think they too were satisfied with the end product, so they were as happy as I was in the end.

Can I ask, how old are you? 

I just turned 20 two or three weeks ago, someone said you stop keeping track of your age after turning 20 and I see that happening already.

What’s your background, would you say?

I was born and live in London but my parents are originally from Mombasa, Kenya. We’ve always been quite an extremely introverted family, we have a couple relatives we keep ties with, but for the most part, we’re quite a lonely family, even though we’ve experienced a lot.

What other mediums do you work in? How is your filmmaking going?

I work in video too, a filmmaker is actually my dream job. I’m still not confident enough to start and finish my own short film but I’ve released two documentaries in the past year, and will be releasing a short film this summer, it’s the start of quite an exciting chapter in my life if i’m honest.

What would you say is crucial to your expression?

The art I make, and hope to continue making, is raw. I still find it pretentious to call what I make art but I know I love to tell stories, it’s my most favourite thing to do. Whatever path I choose in my life, storytelling is ultimately what I want to do, and art allows me to do so. The stories I want to tell are personal, uncut, sometimes maybe uncomfortable, but true to life in the end. I want to touch people deeply with what I do, and if I die doing that, I’ll die most certainly happy.

Check out the full Balloon Project series below.

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