For the last decade, Sarah Bahbah has been pairing her innermost thoughts with bespoke images to make art that is unabashedly emotional, curious, and unashamed. The work of the Palestinian/Jordanian artist is so omnipresent that you have probably seen her photographs at a gallery in any number of countries; in music videos for Kygo, for whom she has directed three; or on Instagram, where she posts for her 1.1 million followers, who harbor a cult-like devotion to the work.
But even if you can’t place it, you’ll certainly recognize Bahbah’s work: She’s pioneered a style of art that includes subtitles to express the innermost thoughts of the artist. With subtitles like “I can’t tell if I’m not okay or I’m the best I’ve ever been” or “I gave myself three orgasms and a pizza,” Bahbah generously shares the psychological underpinnings of her already-personal work. And now, for the first time, you can access Bahbah’s full body of work in the flesh: She’s releasing a luxury fine art book that chronicles a decade of her art. Titled Dear Love, the book is a monumental undertaking: Divided into four chapters, the book splices her work into themes: “Dear Heart,” “Dear Darkness,” “Dear Light,” and “Dear Love.”
“This is a book about love but most of the chapters inside reflect a life without it. This is not just a coffee table book, this is also an autobiography about the past 30 years of my life and how I leaned into my craft to survive, to heal, to unlearn conditional love, to reconcile with self and my identity and to find my way to pure love, a love that kept me here today,” Bahbah tells NYLON. “I reveal so much of myself in this book, this level of vulnerability had me face to face with self-doubt, self-criticism, imposter syndrome and intrusive thoughts every day I worked on this book, but deep down I know true emotional liberation and healing comes from radical transparency and release, and this book exists for me to release the hurt, celebrate the unconditional growth, my craft, and the life I have lived in all the darkness and the light, and to melt in pure, divine love .”
With over 420 pages, the book includes more than 600 photographs and features 20 visual projects, including Bahbah’s most famous of series: Sex and Takeoutwhich features people in varying degrees of undress, usually eating in and around bed; Fool Me Twice which explores the oh so intoxicating anxious-avoidant attachment style trap; and “3ieb!” in Arabic / “Shame On Me!” in Englis, where she turned the camera on herself for the first time, posing provocatively to express her desire for sexual liberation from her cultural restrictions. The subtitles appeared in both English and Arabic, causing an uproar for some Middle Eastern and North African communities, while giving voice to a broad swatch of women.
“Bahbah’s artistic kaleidoscope offers us unparalleled insight into her inner world, reminding us of the intricate process of healing and the fragile beauty of human relationships,” says writer Rachel Cargle in a blurb for the book. “Her dreamlike images summon us to accept, imagine, and reckon with the vulnerability that life often demands. The same vulnerability we sometimes try to avoid. And this isn’t easy — she draws from her own well of trauma, heartbreak, loss, hopefulness, and euphoria”.
Bahbah has long pioneered a sliding scale model for art, and in keeping with her values, the book will be available on a pay-what-you-can model, from $60 to $300, with the minimum option designed for those who are unable to pay more The book is entirely self-funded, self-published, and owned by women of color.
“I am so excited and nervous to share my heart with you in a way I never have before,” Bahbah says. “I love you all, this book wouldn’t have been possible if you weren’t here supporting me as an independent artist from day one. You have my heart.”
Dear Love is available on December 1.