Digital creation

Karim Ben Khelifa

There are two types of journalists: those who want to inform, and those who want to inform and have an impact. I definitely belong to the second category

After nearly fifteen years in every theatre of global conflict, reporter and photographer Karim Ben Khelifa decided to use the medium of VR to tell a different story of war.

Updated on 30/11/2021

2 min

Photographer Karim Ben Khelifa began his career as a reporter during the war in Kosovo in 1997. Since then, he has travelled the world and covered many conflicts, from the Congo to Lebanon, via Israel, Palestine and Honduras. He has lived in France, the United States and Yemen. His work has been awarded by the Sundance festival, and he was part of the Observatory of photojournalism, organised by of the Ministry of Culture.

Regularly invited to teach at universities such as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the birth of his child led him to give up covering conflicts directly and to investigate other formal languages. He began to be interested in other forms of presenting his work, which led him to turn to exhibitions and the use of new media such as virtual and augmented reality.

Although Karim Ben Khelifa's photographs have long been published in the most prestigious newspapers, he has come to question the function of his images. In his eyes, although they bear witness to conflicts, they do not succeed in preventing their multiplication and increasing violence. The central question that has framed his relationship with war photography from the start - why do people seek to destroy each other? - calls for other forms of experience. Since 2012, he has been producing installations based on documentary research and interviews in which photography, audio recordings and virtual reality are combined, with projects such as The Enemy and Seven Grams.

Developed over nearly ten years, partly during a residency at MIT, The Enemy project is the result of an ambitious co-production between France Télévisions and Camera Lucida. In this work, Karim Ben Khelifa began with the observation that combatants from two opposing sides often shared the same fears and fantasies about their enemies. So he developed a museum installation that places two real belligerents, filmed and interviewed at length, face to face, with the viewer in the middle. A mobile application makes it possible to recreate this face to face encounter in any environment using augmented reality. The aim is to put the human dimension at the centre of the experience, while involving the spectator in a more active way. After its world première at the Institut du Monde Arabe in May 2017, The Enemy VR installation has travelled the world: from the United States to Switzerland, Canada and Israel.

  • 1972


    Born in Belgium

  • 1997


    Karim Ben Khelifa covers his first conflict, in Kosovo

  • 2013


    Visiting professor at MIT

  • 2017


    The Enemy exhibition, at the Institut du Monde Arabe

  • 2021


    The Seven Grams exhibition receives the Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize

The Institut français and the artist

Seven Grams by Karim Ben Khelifa is presented in the exhibition Escape, voyage to the heart of digital cultures.

Initiated by the Institut français, the Escape exhibition, a journey to the heart of digital cultures will be presented in establishments of the cultural network (French Institutes, Alliances Françaises, etc.) or partner establishments and events (cultural venues, fairs, exhibitions, etc.), from November 2021. 

Members of the diplomatic network can find information on how to schedule this exhibition here.

L'institut français, LAB