Trained at the International Center of Photography in New York, my practice was also influenced by the mindset of my father, who authored numerous patents in various fields. Attentive to all aspects and perpetually engaged in unfolding the creative process, he held high the transversality, striving to first clearly dissociate the idea or intuition from the means necessary for its implementation. Rather than solely seeking solutions to a "problem," he emphasized that ideas or intuitions should emerge first, followed by rigorous work aimed at materializing them.

My multifaceted work, drawing on the resources of photography, video, installation and sound performance, is situated within a fluid space-time continuum. It endeavors to trace the thread of the creative process during the unconscious phase preceding the birth of an idea or intuition. This process involves relinquishing control, allowing the idea to manifest or capturing it to engage consciously in the creative process, regardless of the rigor or means employed.

Shadows we perceive from the corner of our eyes up to the limit of our visual range, disappearing the moment we turn our head. Combinations of physical and mental elements in constant motion. Permanence of the individual. Identification. Transcendency of life experiences...
In 1988, starting a sequential series of portraits, Zabo Chabiland initiates this survey - human condition as an anthropological study. Project: to confront the man’s image with his diversity. To extract the essential out of the individual.
Subjects are selected among her friends and in the cosmopolitan streets of New York City. Race, age, corpulence... Selection by physiognomic types. Models of humanity. Once in the studio, their faces and bodies are darkened. The eyes shut. Invitation to meditation. Subjectivity. Internalized silence. Endless sessions. Laughter, joy, indifference, sadness, anger...all kinds of expressions are concealed.
Face colors are solemn. Irrational is perceived by neutralizing emotions. Only the features count. At the end of the process, the fundamental structures are developed on an X-ray film without losing its objectivity. Profiles and complexion become tenous under the black filter.
Face archeology, extraordinary emission, image remains in suspense.

Nicolas Cappan

Catalog “Identidades”, Encontros da Imagem. 1998

Walking into Zabo Chabiland's installation, The black project, the viewer is confronted with a series of squares, black canvases, whose depth and solidity give them the status of objects or architectural features. The mood is sombre and ordered, with minimal and classical associations, while the canvases themselves allude to representations of an infinite space or a barren void.
It is with these ideas in mind that the viewer begins to detect disturbances of light breaking through the black surfaces, which on closer inspection reveal the faintest traces of a human face. Each image/object - the status is now ambiguous - 'contains' a face: disembodied, eyes closed, hovering somewhere behind the picture plane. The faces, though barely visible, register as photographic images, which, when matched with an overall three-dimensionality, give the works an unnerving human presence. But, like death masks, the faces betray no indication of an expressive life. We are left to consider them as relics whose physiognomic stories might be read more by anthropologists, or as abstract signs of a precarious human condition. Chabiland's simple and eloquent works have a spectral grace that seems at odds with a time when pain, trauma and visceral revelations of death are writ large in our collective consciousness - a time when death, both private and public, is considered fair game for advertisers. These are reverent, unsettling works, dark spaces where the emblems of the human spirit lie dormant, just out of reach.

David Chandler, Exhibition Manager, The Photographer's Gallery, London.
Texte in the catalog of the exhibition "Presence" 1993.

In 1895, Wilhem Röntgen serendipitously discovered X-rays. The first photograph dates from December 22, 1895. From 1897, Antoine Béclère understood the benefit that medicine could derive from it.

In around twenty years medical radio will be supplanted by MRI. This is the end of the cycle.

Zabo Chabiland's photos represent life-size characters developed on x-ray films. The artist turned into a radiologist. She transformed her photographic studio into a special hospital service. This is hospitality.

We only see the skin in one direction. The “Corps en suspens” series is a new experience. The photographer’s eye is inside the body. The artist suggests seeing the skin from the inside, without worrying about external bodily appearance. She erased all expression. Through the eyes of the subjects, we imagine Zabo Chabiland photographing. It is a total experience. An inversion.

Zabo Chabiland's portfolio is based on a desire to go beyond the composition which refers to an immediate reality. Her work goes beyond the surface while using it, breaking existing benchmarks to give rise to new ones. Project the gaze beyond, towards the unlimited interior of what is represented on the surface.

In her “Corps en suspens” series, the body is the camera obscura taken to its extreme. It detects the intimacy of being outside its representation, its facade. What is photographed could be associated with the soul.

Jérôme Karsenti

PERSONA - or the removable mask  /  Omen mag # 9 (Marcus Leatherdale)

Persona : - Is a social role or a character played by an actor. Derived from ancient Latin, Persona originally referred to a theatrical mask. Today it does not usually refer to a literal mask but to the "social masks" all humans supposedly wear.
-In the study of communication : Persona is a term given to describe the versions of self that all individuals possess.
Behaviours are selected according to the desired impression an individual wishes to create when interacting with other people.
- In marketing : Some marketing experts recommend that one creates a Persona that represents a group of customers so that the company can focus its efforts.
-In psychology : The Persona, for Carl Gustav Jung, was the mask or appearance, the social face the individual presented to the world - a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual..
(source : wikipedia.)

Think of that long history of  Vanitas paintings... An attempt to catch, encapsulate, by representing the whole world in its essence : a table, man-made items and tools, books, instruments, next to natural goods, food, fruits, flowers, sometimes in decomposition, some paper, mostly unwritten, some ink, a feather, and the presence of human being, crystallized by its passing, his remains : a skull - what else.

A presence-absence, the perishable. Immortalising the ephemeral : Cheating death.
(...Quite a humble statement and harsh critic on human condition ultimately for those works to be named Vanitas...)

When painting and such was the only way to represent the world, this was an easier, understandable, place to live in : a place where men could figure out the mechanics of things they were surrounded by. A place where the constant underlying war between objectifying and subjectifying - the definition of reality - wasn't that much of a topic. Yet.

The more means we have to observe, decipher and analyze the world, the less we have an answer and the more we have questions.

Standing in front of Zabo Chabiland's pieces, I watch and think hard... No, actually, I don't.
I screw my eyes in an attempt to get the contours, grasp the main lines ; not of what is before my eyes, but the mental imprint those images are making on my brain.

Reading between the lines. Trying to feel hard.

They happen to be rapidly talking to me, sooner than expected, it appears that those aren't the objective statements they formally, at first sight, dress up in and pretend to be. Nice try, I think and inwardly chuckle at that observation ;that trick she is playing...

No, they aren't statements at all. They are questions. Unformulated questions though, just as a raw and yet unformed material, such as clay, would say : Look, i'm infinite possibility ; what will you do with me ?

The black portraits deny me a look, an insight into what we call the windows of the soul. The words "death mask" and some images of them, tucked up in the back of my mind, are flashing by... followed - like a blow and an exclamation mark - by bits and pieces the word Persona beholds, falling, like swirling leaves, upon the death masks...

All eyes are closed. like looking inward.. This is, they are demanding from me to look beyond, to focus harder on my mental horizon, delineate and perform a movement of having to go deeper, whilst distancing myself in the same breath : get the "big picture"...

- Mise en abyme as much as paradox, because one has to get real close to the pieces in order to decipher an image at all - at first sight, from afar, it's all black. Opacity, permeability.
The closer i get, the more i see, but the less I know. Here we are. Here we go. again. A double function : because as much as it hides, the veil reveals. Transcendance. No, imminent immanence. (another blow with exclamation mark)

I softly smirk... cuz yes, I'm thinking to myself, what other choice do we have but looking at the world and ourselves through a veil, if we genuinely want to have the possibly most truthful view upon it and us......Slowly  heading towards the "X-Ray" pieces...

This time, moving away from the perspective of close ups framing the faces of the "Black Project" portraits ; the subjects are being shown entirely : naked bodies, frontally facing the viewer, like gazing statues.

This time, moving away from the opacity and density of the matte black, towards a bluish milky transparency, fixed on a translucent support, soberly lit by a natural light off a light-box. Sheets of radiographic films.

Naked, plain flesh, instead of the expected topography of bones. Of broken bones.
Here again the skin is being objectified if not anonymized by its preparation : like in some life stage ritual - those ones, we degenerated civilized people can only talk about from a conceptualized, anthropological, exotic distance - the bodies and faces have been completely scrubbed "in", covered in soot.

- a Make-Up, the making up of a mask. Dressed up in nudity. Another layer, another veil, another presence-absence. Is there something broken to be checked out here ? A fracture ? No. I m being shown a whole entity, sealed by the skin, unbroken, unfragmented, frontal, bare and offered to my eyes, yet barely showing, another person(a?) denying me a view into its eyes again - like it would become obscene to show more than this : there is enough of being abandoned to oneself and to the other here. Letting go.

Because if an access is being denied to us in the apparatus of the view of the subject, if the interaction, the answer we keep on looking for in someone else's eyes is nonexistent here, it nevertheless puts those subjects at the most vulnerable level possible.

Like a pile of clay, they silently ask : what will you do with me.. - or to me.
And the answer arises as the question does : there nothing i want to do. I feel it in my bones, there's nothing else to do, but to let myself drift into that very same state of receptivity they are in. I feel now like I'm sneak-peeking at someone sleeping ; although knowing I've been invited to do so. If everything is given, there's nothing more to take. Non plus ultra intimacy. I can suddenly hear my regular breath, sense my verticality, as I'm standing there, motionless, in front of those images, as their very reflection, feeling the space, the volume of the room enfolding me.
Unfolding thoughts ; more than if I'd have a portrait of an individual, eyes all open, animated by an emotion, a thought, with its expressions and looks, their "lack" of individuality makes me wonder and realize : this actually is a person, with a life, a history ; and as my mind tries to "put scaffolding up", devise what those histories could be, the attempt as much as the will to do so weaken, because I know it is a story I could only be trying to figure out, one that will ultimately remain unrevealed to me.

Chabiland makes very few statements, but she makes a bold one by telling us this isn't the point anyway, wiping away "la petite histoire", getting beyond the anecdotal, reaching out for more, for that "bigger than life" thing. As I'm starting to pinpoint what this is all about, I'm beginning to envy the state those people are in. They seem to be floating, in a meditative state, in touch with themselves ; but not the "I" with a name, tastes, cultural affiliation, opinions, fears, joys, worries and bills to pay, not their Persona, but the inner "I", their inner eye, their alter ego - ultimately : their double. I have to stand corrected... : those pieces are not asking questions ; they are cristallizing a state, aspiring to it, by embodying that pure animal-like way of being, feeling like existence itself - and they are an invitation to strive for that state. And at the instar of the difficulty it takes to reach that level of dispossession, those pieces aren't giving themselves away that easily ; and their formality, anonymized appearance shuffles the issue for more than one viewer. Camouflage is nature's craftiest trick - and Zabo Chabiland delicately hides her invitation.

And as I walk out of the room, throwing one last glance, reviewing those pieces again, retracing my steps, in order to imprint them as much as possible onto my retina and my memories, I realize, oh no, this is not about cheating death. nor about facing it. it's about getting acquainted to it. It's not about immortality. on the contrary : about endless renewal, resumption.... Just like we're starting to die ever since our very first breath ; with every little breath we take day in day out, that sustains the dying machine we are ; or just like we die a single bit every night, by letting ourselves fall into a deep saving sleep.... And I'm left with that soothing thought, that if there is a role, a social role to bear, that the possibility of reaching out, of becoming over and over again a dark horse, an immaculate blank page, in order to rename and redefine ourselves, always exists.
Zabo Chabiland gives us a hint, a blueprint for that matter - an ode to inhabiting the cracks, the void of our self - becoming, remaining, a palimpsest.

Elisa Coissard