How DID we all become ‘photographers?’

PosterInfo

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!

Print
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!

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“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

Unpaid Characters

Madina

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

Wedding, anyone?
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 ..

sketch

Chapter 1
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.

Think again
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?

Final

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

Finally Content

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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.

Why?
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”.

Finally conscious
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..

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. Photos Dated – December 2012

A Million Emotions

Winning Photo

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.