Shooting Saudi: Meet the Jeddah-based photography group Raw Shooters

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Raw Shooters’ each photo walk attracts more and more people and the group now boasts more than 30 members. (Photo/Supplied)
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Raw Shooters usually give a theme to each walk. For example, on a recent outing they opted for ‘Ant Eye,’ resulting in extreme close-ups of various objects. (Photos/Supplied)
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Raw Shooters usually give a theme to each walk. For example, on a recent outing they opted for ‘Ant Eye,’ resulting in extreme close-ups of various objects. (Photos/Supplied)
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Raw Shooters usually give a theme to each walk. For example, on a recent outing they opted for ‘Ant Eye,’ resulting in extreme close-ups of various objects. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 29 December 2018

Shooting Saudi: Meet the Jeddah-based photography group Raw Shooters

  • Passionate team freezes beautiful memories with the help of cameras as it experiences the soul of Al-Balad

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs,” the acclaimed American photographer Ansel Adams once said. Raw Shooters, a photography group based in Jeddah, seems to follow this principle to the letter.
Raw Shooters was initiated by Amr Talat. One day, he casually posted on Instagram, saying he would be taking a photo walk in Jeddah’s historical Al-Balad district, adding that if anyone was interested in joining him, they were welcome to do so.
That simple snowball turned into an avalanche. Each photo walk since has attracted more and more people, and the group now boasts over 30 members.
We joined Raw Shooters last Saturday, on their latest walk around Al-Balad, an area known for its rich history. We did not intend to stay for long, but the beautiful weather and the great company made it hard to keep track of time, and we ended up staying for the duration.
The Raw Shooters usually give a theme to each walk. For example, on a recent outing they opted for “Ant Eye,” resulting in extreme close-ups of various objects, creating pictures that might represent the world as seen by an ant.

On our walk, the concept was to take three pictures that tell a story. Talat’s passion for photography — and for the group he started — was clear from the beginning, as he talked with each new arrival. Raw Shooters is all about creativity, he explained.
No fancy gear or formal training is required. Participants can simply use their phone cameras, if they want to.
Talat told the gathered group to go and explore the town without fear.
“You cannot get lost here,” he added reassuringly. And with that we ventured deep into the heart of Al-Balad, exploring demolished buildings, rusted signs, closed-down shops, tiny stores, and so much more.
Of course, almost all Jeddah residents will have visited Al-Balad, but this experience — not rushing around, nor bothered by traffic — really allowed us to see the beauty of the area — the historic architecture, the colors of the windows, the painted walls. And we were able to freeze those memories in time with the help of our cameras.
We all headed off for coffee, and we took the chance to talk to some of the group members.
“I started photography when I was 14 years old,” Talat told us.
“But the first picture I took was with my eyes — and I still have it clearly in my memory. It was a blind man who was selling silly stuff on the streets and for some reason I got really attached to him. From that moment, I started nagging my parents for a camera. And I still carry my first camera with me.”
He knows the streets of Al-Balad like the back of his hand, having spent so much time here since he was a child.
“In Balad, you find the street life that you don’t usually find on the other side of Jeddah,” he said. “My childhood memories just add to the area’s value, for me.”

Best experience
It’s been almost a year since Raw Shooters took their first walk, and Talat is happy that he’s helping people become better photographers.
“The best experiences are when the first timers or beginners are doubting their photography skills and after the walk and during the discussions we find out their true talent,” he said. “The fact that this space and opportunity helps them believe in themselves is what keeps me coming every week.
“Our reasons for doing this are simple,” he continued. “First of all, we just want to spend our Saturday morning doing something we love and connecting to people, and secondly it’s about telling stories of people and things. And walking through Al-Balad is like walking through history itself.”
Ghassan Daghestani has not missed a single Raw Shooters walk since they started. He had seen Talat around (“Whenever I saw him he was with his camera and I was with mine,” he said), and jumped at the chance to spend some time on the streets with like-minded people.
“I started exploring photography when I bought my first camera. I carried it everywhere with me and that made me fall in love with street photography, and then I further developed my skills,” he explained. “But when I was working professionally, just for clients, it made me hate photography. I was not doing anything for myself. Joining this group reminded me how much I enjoy photography.”
The group has helped Daghestani break out of his comfort zone, he said, and do something he loves with people who share the same interests. He continued: “I like the surprises the streets carry, I like to go down the unpredictable streets and wait for stories to happen, then deliver those stories to the people.
“We were lucky to experience the soul of Al-Balad before they started ‘renewing’ it, and since we are documenting the changes happening here, people can experience it too.”
The next day, the Raw Shooters gathered to share their images from the previous day. Each set of three photos was shown to the group, who tried to guess the story behind them.
It was a gathering of passionate people doing something they love and appreciating the work of others. As they transitioned from photographers to storytellers, their faces lit up.
To experience the whole thing first hand was something our team will always remember.

Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 16 January 2019

Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

  • Cabinet OKs air transport pact with Indonesia

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cabinet met to discuss a series of national and global developments on Tuesday, in a session chaired by King Salman.

At the forefront of the agenda was the escalation in tensions between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border, and the continuing encroachment on Palestinian land by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The Cabinet responded by demanding that the UN Security Council intervene. King Salman also relayed to ministers the outcome of his talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which covered many regional issues.

The minister of media, Turki bin Abdullah Al-Shabanah, announced that after reviewing proposals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a decision from the Shoura Council, a memorandum of understanding between the government and the Republic of Korea on granting visit visas had been agreed upon.

The Cabinet approved the amendment of the air agreement on regular air transport between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

The Cabinet, meanwhile, praised the progress of the 2025 Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Program, aimed at enhancing farming techniques by promoting sustainable water and renewable energy sources.

They also discussed the framework in Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020 for building a sustainable renewable energy sector, reiterating aims to lead global renewable energy developments over the next decade, and create projects such as the wind-powered plant at Dumat Al-Jandal, as part of the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative.

In a statement, though, Al-Shabanah said: “The Cabinet discussed the announcement made by the minister of energy, industry and mineral resources about the Kingdom’s oil and gas reserves, which highlighted the importance of Saudi Arabia as a secure source of oil supplies in the long term.”

He added, in closing, the Cabinet’s praise for the efforts of Saudi security forces in the tracking and arrest of seven people in Qatif, which foiled a planned terrorist attack.