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

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 ..

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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

Hallucinations

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Photo title: Hallucinations

With Makkah progressing greatly towards destroying & commercializing all its valuable locations, some believe it’s to show that they are of no sacred value. They aim to not let the generations to come astray & keep the distractions to a minimum. Demolishing anything that could be a source of a misconception. Yet there are others who,despite slightly agreeing with this point of view, often argue of whether or not they are still of any historical value ..

Big Ben on steroids?

As part of preparing for the islamic pilgrimage ,we are all asked to wear white in order to show our unity. To prove that in the eyes of God no one is superior to another yet Abraj al bait stands miles above the kaaba? Did that business proposal not sound wrong the first time?

In order to make way for this “Saudi Big Ben” they had to demolish a 220 year old fortress!With numerous countries objecting the proposal one in particular caught my attention.

“A muslim country’s destruction of another muslim country’s historic heritage on holy soil is a sinful behaviour” – Turkey

These specific parties argued that this was originally done to decrease distractions, but now by also belittling the Kaaba is it supposed to be less of a distraction?

While looking up at God praying for his blessings, there’s that constant reminder to how much time you have left before that ‘early morning meeting’. A journey to the “heart of the islamic world” should cleanse ones inner self, remove all thoughts and concerns of this life & allow one to only concentrate on the afterlife! Frankly it has become almost impossible to do so with the Abraj staring down at you like that!

Monetary Value

Today, Makkah holds the title of the most expensive land in the world, leaving Monte Carlo & London miles behind. Despite being the most welcoming place for all muslims around the world, makkah’s own population does not seem to have benefitted in any way. On the contrary, most of them fear the day they ‘re asked to relocate to make way for another multimillion dollar project.

Trying to make use of the vast type of ‘islamic tourists’ most merchants have to adjust to quite a difficult lifestyle.

Late Ramadan nights are spent awake with potential customers until sunrise! From the time of night’s prayer up to dawn’s is when sales are at their peaks. Forcing themselves to overwork, they aim to make use of the booming economy, yet deep down they are aware of the facts. Aware that regardless of how much it progresses, it shall be of no use to them. Yet they remain content & work hard to make a living. At times so overworked they begin to lose track of their senses, losing track of how much they’re selling. They become oblivious to these facts.

They begin to hallucinate..

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Photo Dated: Ramadan 2012
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