Fresh from the streets of Pakistan
Specialisation: “to concentrate on and become expert in a particular subject or skill”
Its a pretty simple definition but people still get very hypocritical.
Thomas Chambers – a landscape painter, did any one expect anything other than scenery full canvases?
Banksy! THE BANKSY ; Where graffiti meets humorous political and social commentary. Would any one expect him to go around town & spray some meaningless boats & flowers?
The answer to both those questions is No, & if you answered otherwise please stop reading here
Why is it that when it comes to photography the hypocrisy unleashes?! Can someone not be inspired by street photography, influenced by portraits & not face generalisations? Enjoying a ‘camera’s feel’ does not necessarily mean one can be your wedding photographer. I, for one ,may enjoy portraits but those are more candid photographs. Weddings & event photography require a skill I do not possess, just the way Banksy can’t paint boats! We are sorry for our shortcomings ..
Its Time ..
When asked about my inspirations, I instinctively think about my ‘place’ in the world around me. Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, much of my early years were spent as the outsider looking in to their world. Over the years, however, as I grew to love and blend into it I became less of an outsider and more a part of it. This didn’t change how I perceived things, but it did make me realize the elements that contributed to producing my art. If I say my Pakistani origins coupled with my Saudi upbringing were the fuel, then ‘time’ was the vehicle that aided my artistic journey.
Hence my ‘repetitive’ pieces of visitors from back home. When a country like Pakistan is so beautiful but capturing it through a lens can be a threat to you & your family, you learn to work with what you have. Maybe I try to relate to them from here in Jeddah, try & add stories to their faces but can I really? A lifetime away from ‘Home’ & having built a new one here, am I in any position to do so? When you look at an art piece, it may not mean anything to you, but once you learn about an artist’s background, all the elements come together.
Lights – Camera ..
I later realised how I’ve turned these candid profiles into unpaid actors. Actors that aren’t aware of their script nor their publishing, leaving me a culprit of identity theft. With my clean intentions, little do they know, without them I would have no art. It was after that epiphany that I sat down & sketched my own characters. No longer wanting to be a culprit I started to sketch down features of someone longing for home ..
It never occurred to me how intense every little curve on a portrait affects the image’s over all mood. Starting with a very vague idea in mind, every stroke made me realise the good & bad of photography. Despite the quick pace of a shutter compared to a pencil’s hundred strokes, a self improvised portrait will always be in your control. Every expression, every wrinkle & every hair strand is an opportunity to add another chapter to his life. Then again, despite it seeming like the ‘easy way out’ photography will always have an extra element of surprise. Candid shots leave no one more startled than the photographers themselves, as the subjects are out of their control.
I thought I was outshining myself, trying to paint a picture of the ‘ideal subject’ to portray my stories until I realised how ignorant I was being. What is art without a soul? Nothing. How can I base a story on a character that I drew up in a couple of hours? What makes me so sure all the wrinkles I put in, best describe the issues he’s going through?
I then fell back to my unpaid actors, except this time I asked them their stories. After snapping numerous shots I sat & had conversations about our home & the problems being faced. It made me realise a face is just a visual image to help register an issue – would it really matter whether it were hand drawn or camera captured?
Thus the most recent addition to my portrait collection; a blend of an already existing photo from Madina & slightly amended features to fit his stories. “Longing for home” was done ..
Photos dated : June 2013
Generalization > Globalization
Technology seems to be running at its own pace, whether that pace is healthy or not is an argument on its own. From a product’s marketing point of view it could be seen as a cultural bridge, allowing for a more global approach to persuasive adverts. What had stared off as “acting local” & “thinking global” has now been rattled. Ways of dealing the cards have changed & WE are to suffer the consequences. Marketing agencies have started “acting global” instead, reciprocating to the insane pace . A pace that could lead to a lot of ‘side effects’ in the long term. Having one target market may benefit you now, however eventually you will be accountable for giving the title of “generalisation” a whole new definition.
Coming to a less commercial product. We may not put up flyers and bargained prices for Art but we’re all aware of how its becoming a “fashioned product”. Those that never showed a passion for the skill have suddenly started making appearances at galleries! In my opinion its just a phase .. either that or I must keep telling myself that until it actually settles in. The reason for my bitterness concerning the topic are as follows. At any opening day of a gallery, its only natural for it to be blooming, however is it blooming for the right reasons? Huddled up in your best shoes in front of the art pieces, making small talk and enjoying the party favours is not part of sharing a passion for art. All that does is leave those that do behind, struggling to get a slight glimpse of the exhibit. Just like any other product, even the hype for art dyes, that is why it’s always better to visit a gallery once everyone is done socialising & giving out cards for PR.
Having a passion for art myself, I’ve learned to work around these recent changes. Without a doubt everyone loves a full gallery & no one more than the artist himself. However what do you do to make sure the visitors at least try & get a look at your pieces while they mingle? That is when you have to play your own little marketing card .. You may not believe in the “fashion” art is becoming, but after all art is meant to be presented & hence trends need to be studied. “Trend” does not necessarily mean ‘come up with the same art as the world’,on the contrary, make YOUR art the “trend”.
What if you didn’t have to study the trend? What if it were so obvious it started to bug you? Repetitive art can be very irritating. Taking the Saudi Art scene as an example, numerous artists have taken simple rituals and traditions & titled them ‘art’. While exploring on this new “cultural bridge” of ours I felt as though the whole “Hijab/Niqab” concept has been too overdone in our art scene. With a keen interest in street photography, it wasn’t until my last trip to Madina that I realised I was being too judgmental. Until I unintentionally snapped the following photos..
Art may be made according to the trends, but what are trends based on?
The current situations.
Whether it be politics or women on the streets; art will always depict what others fail to see, even if it is overdone. As much as we fight the stereotype, this is only the beginning of our suffering to the power given to the term generalisation.
As much as we hate to admit it, an instant sketch of an arab woman will always consist of an “abaya” or a conservative cover. With an emerging art scene like this, can we really blame the artists? I then realised that I too have started to generalise. Even I have started to point fingers & judge based on no rationale. This woman may represent those that fear the art of photography, but what if we take these concepts in our favour & use them to prove otherwise.
What if I was the merchant and she was the photographer?
Would that still make me think of the “Niqab” as overdone?
Despite being born and raised in Saudi, I am no more than an expatriate. My father having lived here for more than 40 years, makes him no more than an expatriate. My grandfather who spent his entire life helping build Saudi Arabia’s economy, died on their land, no more than an expatriate.
Numerous reasons to why our ancestors moved to Saudi Arabia, in my opinion it was mostly to cut short the distance between them & God. It’s quite a luxury to be able to visit Makkah & Madina any time we wish, at times we don’t even realise how many people would kill to be in our places yet we just take it for granted.
On my last trip to Madina I was fortunate enough to see the less spiritual and more routine life of its people. I then decided to at least try & voice the issue that clearly seemed to spread throughout the region. Of a family business where the women sell everyday necessities under the hot sun while the men sit & guard, one of them in particular caught my attention. Looking down at the ground she waited till the sun set to once again catch the sight of her children, to see how much they earned throughout their day. By carrying the inherited business forward & despite the conditions she still believed to call Madina her home as,in her defence, she knew no other. However deep down she was aware, she knew she was no more than an expatriate, just another migrant from Pakistan.
Give it your all
Despite spending all her time & money in this beloved country she was never given any recognition. Every month would be a struggle from one bureaucratic office to another, just to be able to earn the legal title of a “resident”. Over the time span of a couple of months, as the process would begin to clear, it wasn’t long before the documents would begin to expire again. Once again forced to go through the same processes over & over, struggling to stay in the country her ancestors and herself had given their all to.
Inspired by famous Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan’s piece “Ismi” – she creates an artwork based on how men find it offensive to mention the names of their women.Taking matters in her own hands Manal decides to gather the saudi women to stamp their mark in the emerging art scene. As the industry grows their names shall remain preserved, un-erased & never again be a source of shame.
Earning the title
Manal Al Dowayan is now known as Saudi Arabia’s top female artist whose name brings upon her people’s faces sheer pride. Proved to have clearly achieved the objective, it was after Manal’s last exhibition that I was stimulated to at least voice this issue. An issue that seems to permeate the entire region! Often when people hear me vent about the matter they seem to have no other solution than to leave. Frankly no better cliche fits in here than “easier said than done”.
Jeddah is & shall always remain home to me, not only has it moulded my every characteristic into shape but has rather taught me far more than any other place in the world could. Being able to deal with such a vast number of nationalities is not a characteristic we inherent , & frankly is one that’s definitely worth keeping. Along with the luxury of frequent spiritual journeys it’s far more than a blessing. A constant reminder to what my morals are, Jeddah seems to have the perfect blend of life & the afterlife. Most of you that don’t agree have not yet reached your epiphany,I reached mine right after I shot the preceding shot ..
Being content with what you have, and with what you don’t is what most of us lack. We might say we’ve given so much only so we are given at least its equivalent in return. Only once intentions are clear & hope for nothing in return,might actually prove to be quite a satisfaction.
Content, yet still fighting
Tackling cultural issues has always intrigued me & somehow have always made their way on my canvas.
What started off as rage-full drawings of “home” as a child, have now lead me to capture other faces who tackle & struggle the same matters. Not only did I notice the great number of people who wished to share their voice with mine, I also learned to express it in a form that gave me most pleasure. With the aid of just one lens, every shutter is a step closer to my actual epiphany..
Photo Title : A Million Emotions
When I sit down & really think about it,It doesn’t really register.
It all seems like such a blur; because at that split second, everything stopped.
They say you see your entire life flash before your eyes prior to life. That’s why most of us experience the sensation of what we call “DejaVu”. Well at that split second when I laid my eyes on her, I saw it all. I saw my future just by letting that shutter go.
After that one shot of her I saw the beauty of photography that I didn’t know of. Thanks to that one split second, I saw it all, every emotion I were to face with every breath.
It’s more of a cliché to say “a picture speaks a thousand words”. I’ve heard that phrase so much I too have out grown each & every one of the thousand words. Everyone seems to be talking about technology racing at its insane pace, so why dont we give this cliché a better standing? It may not necessarily have to be a larger numerical value but actually a whole new level. I would say essays with no word limits, & pictures that speak more than just a thousand. For that reason before I lgot abeled as an artsy photographer I learned my way around a camera, even before I actually owned one.
Before a photographer snaps a shot, a preconceived picture has already been drawn in his mind. The end result may or may not match his prior sketch however sometimes he himself is left bewildered. At times you come to question your own creativity & ask yourself, is my imagination really that wild? You see the shot after a preconceived picture, & through digital means you are now able to modify it. Numerous ways to please your vast imagination; in a way that best matches your mind’s sketch.
However sometimes a camera helps you do a lot more, not only does it allow you to control what you do with the anatomy of a photo but rather exactly every detail that goes into place.
Lighting aperture & shutter speed?
Yet again clichés
Its way more than that. Not everyone draws the same picture, even when the shutters have been released, you & I might not see what we claim to see. Its all about imagination & every experience helps you gain more of that.
Traveling to interesting areas & going to places where others may not, does not make you a “more experienced” photographer.
On the contrary. I believe It’s all about what you do with what you have :
Basically aim to accomplish THE MOST with what you have, & hope to see things that others don’t within the same environment. Capture the moment & leave others to ponder. They may have been in the same room, at the time, but are still left baffled. At times living in the same house for numerous years & we don’t realize the details hat hold it up.The human mind gets accustomed to aspects of our everyday life, that sometimes proves to be quite a disadvantge.
We have to change
In order to over come these repetitive aspects of life we must break down the muscle that so-called seems to get “accustomed”.
By setting a new objective, look at everything as though it’s your first time.
Hope that every time you see it is as though it’s your first .. again.
A little contradicting but isn’t that what art is all about?
By always giving great importance to ‘first times’ I came to the conclusion to why “A Million Emotions” is so very dear to me..
It was the first time I fell in love with photography.