Yousef Khanfar: The Art of Seeing

A 75th Anniversary Arts Event

Yousef Khanfar

By Elisabeth Tooms


How do we see the reality around us? And how can photos help show the humanity in people, even those at the edge of society?

Participants from as far apart as Kuala Lumpur and Finland were privileged to have an hour and a half with world-renowned photographer Yousef Khanfar.

Yousef Khanfar is from Palestine and lives in the USA. He started taking photos when he was a very young boy struggling to speak properly and his father gave him a camera. This set Yousef on a lifetime of seeing the world and its people in a special way.

Yousef first made it clear that his art is about ‘seeing’. For him, being a photographer doesn't mean simply becoming a specialist in landscapes or portraits. ‘We photographers tell people what to look at. But we don’t tell them what to see,’ he explains.

We photographers tell people what to look at. But we don’t tell them what to see.

Hands Yousef Khanfar

He is convinced that people who are passionate about something don’t create art but they release it. He therefore uses photography to release the art in people – like setting off an electric current. For Yousef, photography is about capturing a mood and pulling people in. He takes time to see and to look inside. He encouraged everyone to keep it simple. He shared many wonderful landscape pictures, demonstrating how shadows can be used enhance the picture and reflections to enlarge the image.

Yousef also uses photography to bring change in attitudes and in behaviour. He is convinced that you can only change laws if you change people's minds and hearts first. One of the projects he shared was Invisible Eve, a series of photographs of women in an American prison. The project took five years to complete and his aim was not only to humanize these women at the brink of society but also to help them change their attitudes to themselves. ‘I try to find the cracks in humanity,’ he says. ‘My work is to heal those cracks.’

I try to find the cracks in humanity. My work is to heal those cracks.

Yousef generously took time to answer questions about his choice of subjects and his techniques. He explained that he never uses any filters nor photoshops his pictures. He prefers to use a regular camera rather than a mobile phone. For Yousef it is all about seeing and taking time because, as he puts it, to tell a story you need strong bones and to give it a voice and a heart. ‘We (photographers) just borrow from the gods!’

We would like to thank Yousef for sharing his wonderful work with us and his commitment to Caux. We hope very much to be able to meet him there again soon.


Yousef Khanfar screenshot photography workshop 2021
Yousef Khanfar during the workshop




What participants said about the event


Great stuff!


Thank you for a magnificent event! Your photos are truly inspirational.


Frank sharing, beautiful images and honest stories.






Yousef Khanfar

Yousef Khanfar is an award-winning author who is listed as one of the world’s 35 top photographers. He has written three books and his work has been published, exhibited and collected worldwide. He has received appreciation from the White House, US Supreme Court, the UK House of Lords of UK and many more. The Fulbright Center for Peace in Washington, DC, selected his book In Search of Peace to celebrate the Global Symposium of Peaceful Nations. He was also selected as Artist of the Year to promote literacy with UNICEF. The Palestine mission to the United Nations honoured Yousef Khanfar for his ‘extraordinary service to promoting peace and justice in Palestine through art’.

Follow Yousef on Instagram: Yousef.Khanfar or on his website





Register now for our next 75th anniversary arts event "Arts for Change" on 12 November 2021!

Discover all our 75th anniversary arts events

More about 75 Years of Encounters




Photos (except screenshot): Yousef Khanfar


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