Saudi photographer makes it into National Geographic

Ammar al Amir‏ @ammar_alamir (twitter)
Updated 31 October 2017

Saudi photographer makes it into National Geographic

JEDDAH: A rare Hajj photo taken by Ammar Alamir, a young photographer from Makkah, was featured in National Geographic Magazine.
The photo depicted pilgrims in Makkah circling the Holy Kaaba while carrying colorful sun umbrellas.
Alamir, who is passionate about capturing Makkah’s beauty and heritage, has a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Umm Al-Qura University and works as a TV director at the Saudi Broadcasting Corporation.
He is also a member of several international photography organizations, among which are the International Federation of Photographic Art, the Global Photographic Union, the Photographic Society of America, and the World of Photography Group, which is led by Najla Angawi.
“A photographer is a silent tourist guide,” Ammar said.
His passion for photography started in 2005 when he bought his first digital camera to document family trips and capture scenic travel photos. Then, some of his photographs won contests, leading him to sell a number of them and give others as gifts to different bodies and officials.
“I did not stick to one theme,” he said. “There are many themes, and an ambitious photographer will practice all fields of photography.”
“However, capturing photos of the most sacred spot on earth could be everyone’s favorite thing to do,” he added.
“The more you reflect and learn, the wider the circle of your vision gets before you capture the shot; the secret lies in the details.”
This is portrayed in what the Egyptian novelist Tawfik Al-Hakim said: “A great photo is easy for people and difficult for the photographer.”
Alamir’s photos often win during Saudi events. “One must always be ready and prepare good photos for these events,” he said, “My photography calendar must always be synced with dates of contests.”
“Saudi Arabia gives great attention to talents and provides them with platforms through which they can express themselves,” he said, then continued, “Creative photographers must know the rules of photography, light and shadow, and other secrets that contribute to capturing an amazing, successful photo.”
Speaking about how to deal with recurring occasions that reduce the chance of capturing something new, Alamir said: “Occasions will get repeated for sure, but the photo must be new. A photographer’s spirit must not be paralyzed by repletion but rather inspired to find a new innovative idea.”
He added: “Every place provides different scenes and inspires new ideas, and behind every spot is a story. Excuses should not be part of a photographer’s agenda; he must create roses from the desert and rain from clouds, and a photo will be born on its own.”
Alamir’s portfolio is full of photos taken in the holy places of Makkah, Jabal Al-Nour, Jabal Al-Thawr, Makkah’s old neighborhoods, archaeological sites in Makkah, the Cemetery of Ma’la (Jannat Al-Mu’alla), the factory stitching the Kaaba’s gold-laced cover, Souk Okaz, Makkah and Taif’s mosques, the historical markets of Jeddah and other places inside Saudi Arabia, which he plans on publishing in one book.
He might display these photos in exhibitions inside and outside the Kingdom, and he believes that one of the main obstacles he faces is travel for attending exhibitions abroad because the photographer is responsible for the majority of his expenses.
“We live in the days of the digital revolution and the time of photos,” he said.
“Of course, the new generation is aware of the importance of photography and are sensitive and critical enough of what they see. We can deliver messages through photos, and this is widely noticed among the Saudi youth.”
“Saudi photographers have made great self-efforts, and despite the lack of specialized photography clubs, many photographers have achieved global success and organized photography trips outside Saudi Arabia, especially in India and Africa.”


Local for local: Saudi businesses find inspiration close to home

Rawan’s Stationery offers mainly Arabic stationary items, agendas, cards for every occasion and Rawan Stationery-designed wrapping paper. (Supplied)
Updated 24 November 2020

Local for local: Saudi businesses find inspiration close to home

  • New brands discover lively demand for clothes and stationery that draw on regional designs

JEDDAH: Rather than aspire for globalized standards and designs, Saudi businesses have started looking inward to represent their surroundings and their cultures.
Surprisingly, the public has reacted favorably. On several occasions, business owners and founders were stunned to find their designs flourishing because people were invested in something that positively represented their identity.
Faisal Al-Hassan, a co-founder of Own Design, said that the most memorable encounter for the fashion brand was during last year’s brand pop-up in the MDL Beast Festival in Riyadh. “People were coming in to grab one of our pieces and they’d immediately leave. That really made us proud and happy seeing people from across the country are familiar with our brand,” he told Arab News.
Own Design started in 2009 when three young men from Alkhobar came together to make money out of their hobby. “We started Own Design as a small project with minimum funds. We were three kids with big dreams. None of us had any background in designing, I have a degree in public administration, but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I love.”
Seven years on, the founders finally moved from makeshift offices in their homes to a concept store in the city.
“Every quarter, we launch a line with a specific theme. Our latest, the Sadu, has been exceptionally popular,” he added.

People welcomed us because there was something different about our stationery. They found products and designs in their mother tongue, which wasn’t available before.

Rawan Khogeer, Owner of Rawan Stationery

It was approximately three years ago that Sadu fabric became trendy, and Own Design wanted to take that design and introduce it into pullovers and then hoodies.
According to the brand’s Instagram, Sadu is “an ancient tribal weaving craft that artistically portrays Arabian nomadic people’s rich cultural heritage and instinctive expression of natural beauty.”
Sadu fabric is known by its vibrant red, green, white and black colors and seemingly geometric weaving.
Own Design’s clothes are designed to represent culture, with lines such as ODxKings featuring popular photographs of Saudi kings on auspicious occasions or popular quotes by them throughout history to merge “national themes with modern apparel.”
The clothing brand has also featured designs coinciding with the Kingdom’s G20 presidency, titled O20 and G20.
“Our designing process is very collaborative; we sit and discuss ideas and each member adds to what’s been said or alters the design in a way the others didn’t think of,” said Al-Hassan.
The brand is known for various limited edition apparel. Their Sadu line manufactures 400 pieces in each color due to the long production process; once it sells out, customers usually have to wait a year when the next Sadu line is launched.
“We’re approaching volume three of the Sadu design, while also collaborating with a special brand on a limited edition product,” he said.
“We have bountiful ideas that we want to showcase to the world, not just Saudi (Arabia) — we want to reach out to other Arabs,” said the co-founder. “(We want) to see foreigners wearing products that have a story.”
Another local business, Rawan Stationery, was started in early 2018 by Rawan Khogeer, a graphic design graduate. “People welcomed us because there was something different about our stationery. They found products and designs in their mother tongue, which wasn’t available before,” she told Arab News.
The market catered mostly to English content in stationeries. The limited Arabic content that was available was also not as pretty in comparison, said the founder.
From a young age, Khogeer’s pastime activity was to visit stationers. She delighted at the start of every term, merely because she got to shop.
She was always fascinated by gift-wrapping paper and the patterns on them. Whenever she visited a gift-wrapping shop, she pledged to open her own shop in the future.
While completing a training program at a company, Khogeer received the news that her mother had suffered an accident. Unable to find a suitable get-well card, she designed one herself.
“I decided to make her a card specifically for her, something that suited her taste, but I chose silver and gold colors, and printers would only print big batches; I was faced with the choice to either change the colors or go ahead with a large print run,” she said.
Khogeer chose the latter, and when her mother saw the card she was elated and told her daughter to start selling them.
Khogeer then went around small gift stores and stationers with her design, while running an Instagram account to publicize her brand. She was also looking into collaboration with stationers in Kuwait and, when they encouraged her, she expanded into the Gulf region.
“Demand was growing and the designs were increasing, and I felt like I’d found myself through this craft. At the same time, other work opportunities, although great, didn’t feel as fulfilling, so I approached Entrepreneurial Institute for support, and I never regretted that decision,” Khogeer said.
It was an adventure visiting governmental entities, carpenters and painters to get Rawan Stationery looking how it does today and fulfilling Khogeer’s dream of establishing a stationery/gift-wrapping store.
“I always wondered why stationers abroad were so meticulous and had such lovely local content, in their own language. I wanted to give that to people here and I wanted to elevate the Arabic language,” she said.
What makes Rawan Stationery different is its originality. It offers mainly Arabic stationery items, agendas, cards for every occasion and Rawan Stationery-designed wrapping paper, and has found a ready market.
As for upcoming projects, Rawan’s Stationery has plans to expand to a second branch soon.