Author: 
Shiekhah Al-Dosary, [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2011-06-15 20:14

Wandering through Saudi cities, she chose Riyadh as her base and start to her journey and was determined to take her photography mission to its highest level. Having two master degrees in the field, she was one of few photography experts in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, she took advantage of that by broadening her students’ horizons and introducing them to new as well as traditional photography techniques and subjects.
“Photography is a very large profession,” explained Léger. “In the West, there are master degrees in the subject — not only in photojournalism but in different fields such as scientific photography.”
“I met so many Saudi photographers over the years like photographer engineers, architects or self-taught, but not many that have degrees in photography. What I think is missing is photography that is not focused on those particular fields,” she added.
Léger teaches photography as part of the interior design department/major at a private college in Riyadh. However, she finds it inadequate and unfair to the subject.
“Photography is just one course; one semester in 45 hours in a book. All this goes along with a university learning, or as we say as “a drop in a bucket.” It is just a very simple beginning. Photography is a long road, especially if you want to follow it as a career,” she clarified. She added that photography is very important in architecture and interior design and for all publications and documentation.
Léger has worked for many architects doing photography.  A specialist in landscapes and architecture as well as heritage photography, she does large-scale projects where photography becomes the center point of work itself.
“I’m a traditional photographer,” said Léger about her photographic techniques. “I use my Kodak camera, still believe in 35 millimeter, large format and have always used film. I have not 100 percent jumped into the digital world. I think it is unfortunate that almost everybody stepped into digital photography because they don’t expand beyond that. You get different kinds of pictures with digital cameras compared to film cameras.
When asked if traditional photography is dead she replied: “Traditional photography is not dead, but in Saudi Arabia, many shops refuse to order professional films or chemicals!”
She explained the difference in technique, which she used for her photographs of Madain Saleh: “Using Kodak160 NC film (color) and T-Max 100 (black and white), the film was handed developed, contact printed and then the original negatives were digitally scanned.”
The images were shown in many exhibitions around the world. One of her best projects focuses on the architecture and landscape related to Nabatean society. It shows the great Nabatean city carved from limestone rock, the tombs with their ornamental façade and the skillful craftsmen work. It tells a story of a short-lived civilization that lived between 100 BC and 76 AD.
“It has been delegated as a world heritage site and is an extremely beautiful place. It is an incredible place that I visit several times a year. The images were taken over a three-year period. I have been to other world heritage sites in Oman and Jordan, but I find this one so extraordinary due to its natural beauty. It was an awesome experience, very spiritual in a certain way,” said Léger.
Recently, these images have flown all the way from Buruei Gallery in SOAS London to Riyadh to participate in the Art Gallery during the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market (STTIM).
It was her first exhibition here in a wonderful new gallery with a focus on photography and both her black and white and color photographs were well received. However, she admitted that she was concerned when they told her it will be at the Riyadh Exhibition Center.
“I couldn’t imagine a gallery being set there,” she admitted, “but, at the end, it turned out to be one of the best experiences here. So many people came and were interested in photography. It was amazing. I was overwhelmed with the audience reaction toward my work and other Saudi photographers.”
That successful exhibition got her more enthusiastic about capturing other Saudi mysteries and hidden beauties. When it comes to her favorite city of Riyadh, she photographed most of its environment, outskirts and almost every area nearby. However, that is not all. She has also photographed other big cities in Saudi Arabia and her list of places is never ending. “I still need to visit and photograph Tabuk, Arar and Al-Jouf, among others,” she said.
However, there is one place she always dreams about. “I can’t wait for my next destination, which is Wadi Aldawasir. I have been waiting for five years to visit it. I am lucky I know a little bit of dawsari dancing. I also know a dawsari family, so I hope I get the chance to visit them and meet the original families from the region, especially since no projects have been done in that place, as far as I know,” she said.
As regular contributor to Saudi Voyage magazine, she promised to write great features about those trips with all details to give all readers a wider view of Saudi beauty.
Léger’s Saudi photography journey has been a great experience. “I came here first and foremost to be the first photography teacher in the Kingdom, and I learned a great deal from my students and life here in all aspects. Since I’m a landscape photographer, it was a great chance in my life to photograph landscape here and shoot places that are very little known and not much exposed,” she explained.
“I thought this would be a change and a great opportunity, and it has been. I love the desert, people and crafts, and it is the perfect place to final traditional crafts. From the cultural side, I like the food, music and dancing. What I don’t like, however, is having to wait for a driver. It’s a nightmare, but we are now used to it,” she added with a smile.
When asked if there was a message she would like to send or a dream she wishes to fulfill here, she said: “I think that if there is a photography school here, we could train the next generation of Saudi photographers in all levels and areas of the profession, as it is a very rich and diverse subject.”

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