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

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.

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

Winner of Create & Inspire 2012

Create & Inspire 2012

In the summer of 2012 I was granted the title ‘Winner of Create & Inspire’. The theme of the competition that year, was focused on the islamic pilgrimage, Hajj. Lucky for me, I had perfumed perfumed Hajj that same year where I had first starting taking photographs. At this point photography was just a mere method to take pictures of the journey, and not at all an artsy tool. Towards the end of Hajj I happened to sit right next to the woman in that picture. At first it was very difficult to snap a picture of her without her knowing, however I thought i’d take a risk .. she smiled right at me!

If at that moment someone had told me, this old woman would be the reason behind:
– falling in love with photography
– changing my education plans from business to graphic design
– going on a 17 day expedition all around the United Kingdom thanks to Offscreen Expeditions
– AND getting my photography exhibited at the British Museum?

Never in a million years would I have believed that. She later inspired me to write one of my best pieces titled  “A Million Emotions

I guess I owe her a lot.

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“Award winning photograph for Crossway Foundation’s acclaimed competition, Create & Inspire& expeditions programme targeting UK and Middle Eastern youth.  A London-based charity delivering arts and education initiatives for young people across the UK and Middle East, with a regional search to find the most talented young artists, photographers and filmmakers.”

Exhibited at :

The British Museum – Addis Gallery : (January 2012 – May 2012)  Click here for Details

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Feel free to read more about the creative journey on  http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/blog/by/118

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