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Artist Profile: Khitam Jabr

Above image: KC native Khitam Jabr lives and works as a videographer in NYC, keeping creative and community ties in her hometown by working with local artists. | photo submitted

What’s better than creating dope stuff with your friends? This rhetorical question has underlaid the work of photographer and director Khitam Jabr, a Kansas City native who now resides in New York City. 

After graduating from the University of Missouri–Kansas City in 2014, Jabr started taking a camera to shows around KC, taking photos and creating a network of relationships with musicians throughout the city. A few years ago, Jabr moved to NYC to further her career in videography and video production, where she actively works as a production coordinator and/or assistant on campaigns for brands like Dior, Samsung and Maybelline. 

Even after relocating to NYC, Jabr has stayed connected to Kansas City through a number of video projects. Working with KC artists has given Jabr an opportunity to merge her love of video with her love of the community she developed such strong ties to before moving. In merging the two, Jabr brought a national spotlight to the local production community through the music video for Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” by Calvin Arsenia. The video was picked up and recognized by five film festivals — including the Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards and Festival, Los Angeles CineFest and Portland Unknown Film Festival.

Jabr directed Calvin Arsenia's version of "Toxic," and gained recognition from film festivals across the country.

Jabr’s most recent work is a music video for Bridge Artist of the Week Katy Guillen & the Drive’s upcoming single, “No Control.” Guillen and Jabr have partnered on projects in the past, but according to Jabr, this is their best work yet.

“It really captures the band’s energy,” she said. “Infectious and just badass.” 

In what Jabr refers to as “low-key homage” to the video for Kelly Clarkson’s classic “Since U Been Gone,” the video features a lot of destruction, in a productive way. In an alleyway in the West Bottoms, band members crushed (and cleaned up) pieces of antiquated technology for the video. The final product splices together this footage with shots from their trip to Lincoln, Nebraska for a show at Zoo Bar. 

When drafting a concept for a music video like this, Jabr finds herself obsessively listening to the song and picking the artist’s brain to visualize the story that needs to be told. Often, her videos are influenced by the imagery that’s floating in her own mind at the time of the project. In the past, that imagery took shape as sunflowers, lace masks and rose petals. For “No Control,” it took shape in the form of nostalgia — revisiting the televisions of her childhood.

“Remember how much room they took up?”, she said, of the pieces that were crushed in the making of the “No Control” video. 

In the upcoming year, Jabr has a few more projects on the horizon that she’s excited about. Back in New York, she’s focused on commercial and narrative work, and recently worked as the Director of Photography for a comedy sketch show that’s being shopped around to television networks. For others who are eager to break into the industry of music videography, she has a few words of wisdom.

“Just do it,” she said. “Even if you feel like you don’t have the resources or you’re not ready. The work will only get better the more you do it.”

The Bridge will be premiering Katy Guillen & the Drive’s “No Control” music video, directed by Khitam Jabr, this Friday, March 20. To see a few of Jabr’s past music videos, check out our Related Articles section below.

—Anna Selle is a music writer and photographer from Kansas City. She runs HearQueer, a publication highlighting queer musicians, and has worked with several other local publications. As a photographer, she is a digital contributor for Interscope Records.

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