Jeddah Traffic Series

Jeddahtrafficseries

None of us is a stranger to Jeddah’s traffic ..
With hours spent on its streets, I often take the opportunity to frustration into inspiration!

Starting with the nose each time, with no preconceived image I let the bumps on the roads determine the characteristics of my character!
Created with one finger, a four-inch screen, all under nine minutes!

 

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Feel free to see more under #JeddahTrafficSeries

Instagram: @ali_salwa
App used: Paperby53

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How DID we all become ‘photographers?’

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How many of you have taken at least one photograph on a smart device?
If you haven’t .. please feel free to redirect yourself to the following page: why you should own a smart device.

For those of you have, hallelujah! Most of you have probably even tried to upload a couple on instagram with clever hashtags and tacky filters. Yes I said tacky ..
That does not make you any less of a photographer, but rather makes you believe less in planning over a photograph and more in the edit. Editing is often a skill, that many do not have the eye for. As a graphic designer, who has loved photography for over 5 years I still look back at stuff from last year and wonder what I was thinking!
The easiest way out is to keep it natural. Play with the camera itself rather than the artificial filters they give you easy access to. However in order to understand photography, one must know of its history, which brings us to our topic.Print

As of 2015, we are 7.3 billion people on this planet. 30% being youth, those born and raised into the technology generation.
That is more than 2.2 billion kids on this planet who have been using smart phone cameras and have no idea where they originated, nor how easy it is to take pictures now!

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With social media in the hands of 85% of fifteen year olds today, they cover more than 37% of instagram and snap chat’s user base. For that reason, for a recent project for an information design course, we were given the freedom to chose a topic of our choice. As someone who truly began to appreciate photography even more once I knew its history, I thought might as well teach the generation after me as well, as quickly & briefly as possible. After all it isnt their fault they were born in such ‘easy’ times ..
Hence my poster was completed, numerous edits and protypes later, this one proved to be most effective amongst the target audience.
You may go back up and take a closer look at it, constructive criticism is always welcome!

Ramadan is more than? رمضان اكثر من؟

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Now that half of Ramadan is over, I noticed how it becomes more about its traditions & less about making use of the blessed month. This series is about me accepting the silly things I do in Ramadan, like making sure we have enough vimto for life instead of actually praying before breaking my fast..
I asked my peers to add to the list, & it was quite a fun experience illustrating how each one of us sees our habits differently!

خلصت نص رمضان ولقيت نفسي مهتمة في أشياء غير مهمة في هذا الشهر الكريم
أوقات الاقي نفسي مهتمه في الڤيمتو إزا جاهز أو لا اكتر من اهتمامي بالأذكار قبل الفطور..
عشان كده نويت ابدأ هدي السلسلة، اكتب فيها اشياء مالها أهمية بنسويها في رمضان لكن من غيرها ما أحس رمضان حيكون”رمضان”

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Distracted by the temporary, because the permanent frightens me.

Salwa Ali

Yes, the title sound a little dramatic, but by the end of this post I’m pretty sure it’ll make sense to you.

When it comes to listing my inspiration, its tough deciding. Most times I find that I have already executed an art piece, without any research done. In a world where social media is always at our finger tips, scrolling down your instagram feed is a form of constant inspiration. Whether you were looking for it or not, by seeing art from all around the world at your finger tips, you are probably going to have some of your own ideas by the end of the feed. With your own touch, and a mix of everyone else’s, everyone plays a role at being part of your inspiration.

For that reason, for my last project, I forced myself to find inspiration that I would not come across my instagram. I went back to art history to see what inspired the ones before us. It was then when I finally read about Frida Kahlo. We’ve all seen her face, we all noticed the unibrow but most of us don’t know what inspired Frida Kahlo’s paintings. At least I didn’t until I did some research. Kahlo had come across an injury during her medical studies. After being bedridden, her mother had left her a canvas to keep her entertained, letting loose the prodigy we know today. What inspired Frida most was herself, as she found herself often alone, hence the self portraits. However, with the use of dramatic symbolism & bright colors, the influence of her Mexican culture was very apparent. Perhaps an unintentional inspiration?

The purpose of Frida’s introduction was to lead you to the following. At times regardless of what you think inspires you, there is always an extra element in your art that you may have not deliberately added. Ideas that you have overthought, or scenarios that you have lived over and over always find their way to your canvas, it’s inevitable.

Salwa Ali

On this last project, the objective was to self reflect. Digging deep often gets uncomfortable, however, is often necessary to create ‘good’ art.  Being born & raised in Saudi Arabia everything I am today is a product of that. Regardless of how attached I may be to this land, deep down I know I love Pakistan just as much, even if I may not relate to it in the same way. However, without the mix of culture I am often exposed to, I wouldn’t know what made me different. Nonetheless, different can often become a little tricky..

When i’m in Jeddah, my life at home, the way my parents raised me & many other things differs me from my Saudi friends. On the other hand, when I’m in Pakistan, the way I’ve grown up around arabs, my habits, my accent, even the way I think is different to those who live there. So in conclusion, when I’m in both places, I don’t perfectly fit in in either. At times I don’t know which place to call ‘home’. As cliche as this sounds, my heart says Jeddah but my mind forces me to digest it’s Pakistan.

Salwa Ali

The reason I say ‘forces’ is not because I don’t want to call it home, but rather having always seen it as a temporary home, when we visit family is just what I got used to. However, the truth is Jeddah is what is temporary, & heading back to Pakistan is just a matter of time. Due to legal regulations, the moment my father retires, he will no longer have a company sponsoring him here in Jeddah, hence our ticket back ‘home’.

For that reason, being loss between cultures often acts as an extra tone of paint on my canvas. Often it is the only shade on my canvas.

For 20 plus years, I’ve heard my father tell me to be grateful for the time we’ve got to spend here. Grateful for the lifestyle, & lessons we’ve learned, that we may or may not have learned back home. However, I find myself constantly fearing the day we have to go back. The day we actually have to deal with the political situations of the country, rather than just having to read them in a news paper. Until then I am in denial, I am going around in circles, keeping myself distracted by the temporary, because the permanent frightens me.

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Photographs dated February 2015.

Use of Photography in Graphic Design

The word photography translates to ‘drawings made with light’. Graphic Design is known to be the combination between pictures and text in an advertisement. However, before photographs were created, graphic design had already existed. Behind any success story is a journey, and the journey of how photography and graphic design unified is just as important. According to Meggs and Purvis (2012), on March 4th 1880, history was created when the first printed photograph with full tones was published in the New York Daily Graphic, to begin a never-ending bond between the two. The following post will show how history has made the two almost inseparable.

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When it comes to describing what photography really is, Meggs and Purvis (2012), believe it is about making pictures by a photochemical process, where chemicals help produce the image. A dark box, called a camera, is used with a slight opening, to allow light to flow through. This allows an image of the outside object to be reflected even brighter. During the 18th and 19th centuries, people were constantly looking for ways to create images without having to draw, however, these dark box images were just projections that could not be printed. Later a light sensitive material capable of capturing this light was added to permanently fix these projections into photographs. Even up to 10 years after the invention, photographers would still give illustrators the visual evidence needed to document an event. These illustrations were later added with text for printed publications. (Meggs & Purvis, 2012).

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Until 1840, focus was still on illustrations, as photography was not yet detailed enough for publications. For that reason other curious inventors such as William Henry Fox Talbot continued to experiment with materials and their reactions to light. Talbot later invented photosensitive paper that allowed for negative images that created the bright parts of the subject as dark and the dark parts as light. It was in June of that year when Talbot was successful. His sensitive paper was exposed long enough to create an image, which was then developed using chemicals. (London, Upton & Stone, 2008) Many believe, “Talbot’s invention radically altered the course of both photography and, later, graphic design.” (Meggs & Purvis, 2012, p. 155) For that reason by the 20th century focus was on merging photographs and text together.

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London, Upton and Stone (2010), believe that due to the many tones of gray in a photograph, type and image could not yet be printed together. So how were they printed to give such clean versions of what was known then as graphic design? According to London, Upton and Stone (2010) photographs were first made into drawings to be transferred onto woodcuts in order to be printed in newspapers. This was quite a lengthy process as well as uneconomical. By 1880, the process of printing the grey halftones was improved as type and photographs could now be printed together. Photographs became an essential part of newspapers, and were said to be real life moments only reproduced on paper, rather than fancy illustrations. (London, Upton & Stone, 2008) Until the mid 19th century, documenting scenes from war zones was uncommon. As London, Upton and Stone (2010) believe, wars were learned about from soldiers upon their return, or even late news reports. In 1850, Roger Fenton was the first to photograph the Crimean war in detail along with Mathew B Brady who had also captured the American Civil War. However, Brady had only managed to capture the aftermath of war, as photographing during battle was far too dangerous. It was Brady’s courage that lead to irreplaceable documents of American history. (London, Upton & Stone, 2008). These pictures are being used until today and are the base of what is known as photojournalism, the use of images to tell news stories along with text. We later begin to use the same definition for what we now know as graphic design. Despite the fact that the art movement known as naturalism, also known as artistic photography, had begun in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that text and image, together were officially known as art and graphic design. (London, Upton & Stone, 2008). Meggs and Purvis (2012), believe the use of photography in graphic design mainly began at the German Bauhaus school, a place where concepts of all design and art movements were looked into. According to Meggs and Purvis (2012), one of Bauhaus’s instructors, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was known to be an experimenter. He enjoyed playing with the size, angle and distortion of an image, as he believed photography had the ability to greatly influence poster design. In 1926, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was equally intrigued by typography, he saw it as a vital tool of communication with the importance of legibility. (Meggs and Purvis, 2012). It was Moholy-Nagy’s curiosity that later started a new interest in joining these two art forms together at their institute which was later known as typo-photos.

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Another artist with similar techniques as those of Moholy-Nagy was Alexey Brodovitch. He was the art director at the well-known magazine, Harper’s Bazaar where he experimented with image size and positions. (Meggs and Purvis, 2012). For one of their issues, Brodovitch and an American artist, Man Ray collaborated together. Man Ray had been playing with photographs since the 1920s by reversing and manipulating images he created what is known as photo-plastics, which helped bring out his unconscious thoughts. (Meggs and Purvis, 2012). On their project together, for Harper’s 1935 issue, they used contrast in the height of letters to highlight the height of the woman on the opposite page. Meggs and Purvis (2012), believe it was Brodovich who taught many designers to experiment with photography, with the many collaborations he did for Harper’s Bazaar. In the late 1950s another young art director known as George Lois was ready to go to any extent to sell his work. According to Meggs and Purvis (2012), he believed that fully unified visual and verbal ideas were the essence to an effective conveyance of a message. Lois worked with the theory that can be restated as; verbal and visual components in modern communication are just as indivisible as words and music in a song. In the 1968 issue of Esquire Magazine, Lois featured Mohammed Ali, world’s heavy weight champion. According to Lois, (2014), Mohammed had recently converted to Islam and chose to object the offer to fight in the military. Repercussions followed when he got sentenced five years in jail, loss of his title, as well as getting banned from fighting. He followed by explaining his idea of comparing Mohammed to St. Sebastian and how he planned to use this poster as a protest with the idea of religious iconography as St. Sabastian had also gone through a similar battle. Lois (2014), mentions not only did this make a great poster for Esquire magazine; with a simple sentence ‘The Passion of Mohammed Ali’, it was later reproduced and sold as a protest poster. In less than three years Ali was free of his sentence, proving the power that comes with intelligently unifying photography and graphic design. The reason I chose this piece is because, Meggs and Purvis (2012) mentioned Esquire Magazine was at the verge of bankruptcy, and after hiring Lois for over 92 projects they were at a profit of three million dollars per issue.

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Regardless of how common photography was becoming, how did film photography change to the digital one we know today? According to Savage (2014), experimenters George Smith and Willard Boyle are to thank for the creation the semiconductor circuit-the CCD which was the foundation for digital images to be saved and viewed later. They had worked together in 1969 with the aim to be able to capture images on a telescope, not only did this help us learn about what is beyond the earth, it was a big jump from capturing photos on a tangible material to having it saved virtually using chemicals. Despite how basic this technology may have seemed, in less than 30 years posters were now filled with digital photography once again harmonious with typography. According to Meggs and Purvis (2012), in 1996, a musician band by the name of Lou Reed decided to design a poster for one of their upcoming albums. They did so by using a digital photograph of a band mate and covering his entire face with the very personal lyrics from their songs. Another later example of how digital photography completely took the place of film with typography was in 2002, for the invitation of one of the world’s most renowned design firms, AIGA announcing the opening of nine more design studios. By portraying nine diamond shapes labeled with numbers, the background image is a digital photograph of a woman with make up tears and make up pouring down her face. Since this was part of the era when conceptual posters were at height, Meggs and Purvis (2012), believe these tears could have been caused by the heat when mining the diamonds, however the link between the tears and the opening remains unsolved to date. However, it wasn’t until 2003 when digital photography and typography together, not only created the layout of the poster but rather the main outline of the subject. Meggs and Purvis (2012), mention a designer by the name Reza Abedini who created a poster for the film Reves de sable. By using digital photography for the main face of the Persian woman, the rest of the composition was made with Farsi letters. Her entire cloak was decorated with these letters, although not legible but making very clear her cultural background as well as the theme of the film. Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 12.08.27 PM Despite how popular it has become to use photography and graphic design together, at times one must realize their individual importance as well. From the start with photographic negatives, to their combination as the typo-photo, photography is always adapting to the current trends. In this day and age, where we have gotten so used to life-sized billboards around us, we forget what it would be like without them. Thanks to Man Ray and many others, photography is quite an important part of our digital revolution. This paper listed the many examples through which harmony between photography and graphic design have helped change the world, only history will show what it further has to offer.

If film grew on trees, I wouldn’t need money.

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I come from the generation where everyone believes they can be a photographer. Despite the talent we may, or may not possess, most of us don’t even know the basics to taking pictures. As the generation that grew up with handy iPhone cameras doing all the work for us, we don’t realise how hard it really was using an old fashioned camera. We have apps that give us film photography filters, but don’t know how to operate one. So why HAS digital photography engulfed film? How did companies like Kodak shut down? Well you can google those questions; I haven’t gotten around to that yet..

Moving from Digital to film?
As a street photographer, the concept of ‘frames per second’ is very important to me. Moments I want to capture depend on the amount of pictures I can take within that second! So how would I do that with a film camera?

The process of taking a picture with a SLR begins with inserting the film by trying not to burn it all. The more film you pull out, the less pictures you get to take on an already limited film. However, once the film is in it doesn’t get any easier. An automatic lock is activated after EVERY – SINGLE – PICTURE. After every photo, you are to pull back the lock and go to the next frame on your film. Just imagine the amount of ‘moments’ you just missed on the street ..

Excuse me while I salute old fashioned street photographers.

#YouMissedASpot, I mean shot.
As someone who takes pictures in extreme situations as those in Pakistan, my camera is then set to auto settings. That doesn’t mean it is doing all the work for me, but rather speeding up the process. If i were to set the setting for each picture each time, i’d be missing a lot. This is not the case with an ‘old fashioned fully manual film camera’. ( Bet you can’t say that in one breath ) .. The name might be pretty self explanatory, but trust me it was tougher than it sounds. Upon shooting every picture, you are to change your shutter speed as well as your focal length unitl that little light meter goes green. Finding the right exposure can be pretty frustrating at times. In other words, you have to keep playing with numbers until you’re good to go. Practice may help however, once you miss the shot, well you’re not getting it again.

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If film grew on trees, I wouldn’t need money.
With film photography, you have to be wise with the way to spend your film. With only 24 pictures on one reel, refilling can be time consuming as well as expensive. As a photographer that started digitally, I have a confession to make. I normally take upto 200 pictures per setting and end up liking a maximum of 10. #Guilty
Good thing I was born in the digital era or i’d be broke. Probably a better photographer, but broke.
Did I mention the developing process? Your pictures don’t just pop up, & no your film doesn’t go into your laptop, but that calls for a blog post on its own.

Find your comfort zone.
Despite the many differences between the two types of photography, I wouldn’t want to call either of them ‘better’.
Each one has its own perks and each one radiates its own excitement. The beauty of film photography, in my opinion, could never compare to that of digital. The natural highlights & colour quality has its own throne. The element of surprise is another treasure, in a day an age where patience is no longer a trait possessed. Learning film photography is a base to being a better photographer. Not only do you learn to appreciate it’s history, but rather you realise what a long way photography has come.
At the end of the day each one is an art in itself; try different mediums until you find yours!

“Just the way I saw him, 365 days ago.”

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Epiphany?
As a pessimist I have to admit the following. Regardless of how blessed and thankful I am, a part of me still looks for a reason to live another day. All 365 days of the year, I constantly go over my mental bucket list on which only one item is crossed off. That one item being ‘cross one thing off your bucket list’ should give you an idea of where I’m going with this.. However, on my last trip to Pakistan, I realized how extravagant my ‘reasons to live’ were in comparison to the small blessings I am bestowed on a daily basis. Small reasons, that I have taken completely for-granted, which at any moment could be taken away from me! Numerous realizations followed, however the most interesting part is how I came to these realizations.

Deja Vu:
6 o clock sharp an old fashioned horn went off. As if the feeling of déjà vu, I rushed to the balcony of our little apartment. I tried to get the lock on my window to open but it was rusted shut from the last time we had visited. I put on my shoes & ran outside to get a better look; that’s when it hit me. It wasn’t déjà vu, it was the rush of realizations. There stood the same boy who had been delivering bread to us the last year we visited. The same boy, as though oblivious to the changes going on in the world around him, still stood tall. This boy had not even aged! The few strands of hair on his chin still remained freshly trimmed & his shalwaar kamiz just as starched as the last time I saw him, 365 days ago.

Prioritise:
The children around him had grown taller, but just as rude as before. This time they had siblings, half their height as though carbon copies of their elders. He still responded to them with just as much love, as though he did this for them. For him, all he needed was these kids looking up to him! Instantly the energy to live another day would be reimbursed. With huge bags hanging from his little Honda, he carefully picked out local chocolate bars of their choices, but the light in the children’s eyes could not even compare to his. At that moment, it was quite obvious how counting your blessings is just as important as prioritizing them.

Unemployment in Pakistan:
At times one must realize it is not what you do for a living, as long as you enjoy it. However, with the pacing rate of unemployment, many are left struggling. One of the main reasons behind this, is the uncontrolled growth of the population. The population of Pakistan is growing at an insane rate, hence logically there aren’t that many opportunities available. Some believe the reason behind this pace is due to early marriages, lack of awareness & illiteracy. Despite the uncountable schools on every street, some factors caused by corruption do not allow for a fair education system. Therefore, those that have gained their degrees through unofficial systems, are granted the jobs of those who deserved them.

SalwaAli

Content?
For that reason with such little opportunities available, at times many find themselves in a constant battle to be happy. On the other hand, for the blessed, knowing about the numerous opportunities available around the globe can also cause unsatisfactory to their current stage of life. So frankly, it does not matter whether you have it all, or if you don’t, you will always find yourself in the same battles. It’s those that make the most of them, that remain content.

All photos taken by yours truly!

 July 2014