MAYA JARJOUR, [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2010-04-14 23:27

The exhibition, the first of its kind to portray a collection of work from Saudi women photographers, was held at the main hall of Elegant Homes in Jeddah. It took place from April 11 to 13 and was sponsored by Ayman Rafik Hariri of Saudi Oger and Ghassan Asaad from Elegant Homes.
Organized by photographer Rania Abdelrazek, it showcased photographs by 30 amateur and professional photographers including Heba Saber, Faigah Turki, Samia El-Moslimany, Serene Ghazzawi, Areej Attallah, Wed Abduljawad, Neeveen Bahdur and herself.
The majority of attendees were young women who had come to support Abdelrazek and the other women photographers. Furthermore, Khaled Almaeena, editor in chief of Arab News, opened the ceremony where Dr. Suhair Al-Quraishi, the Dean of Dar Al-Hekma College, was also present.
Also during the exhibition, Abdelrazek launched her first one-of-a-kind book — a collection of images photographed by her and the other Saudi women photographers. The book, printed in English, and composed of 148 pages, took over two years in the making. Even though Abdelrazek didn’t receive any financial support in publishing her book, she printed 2,000 copies on her own. It contains 115 images and is divided into the following five chapters: Vision of life, portraiture, abstract, Saudi Arabian culture and photo art.
Abdelrazek hopes to promote positive images of Saudi Arabian women to the West and within the Kingdom through her book and exhibition as well as create another bridge of communication “artistically” between the East and West.
All photographers, both amateur and professional, had a gift in portraying their own vision of beauty. Whether their photographs focused on black and white or color, they succeeded in triggering admiration from everyone. Photographs were being sold for an average of SR2,500.
In her black and white photographs “Gold Street — the New Gate” and “Makkah Gate,” Wed Abduljawad explains how she took the pictures using a pinhole camera that she made herself to give the distortion seen in the images.
“I love experimental photography more than anything, especially older techniques,” says Abduljawad. “I also always have to have a hands-on experience with my pictures.”
Manually developed and printed, her photographs are from a collection titled “Once Upon A Time,” composed of 24 images of the historic district of Jeddah that were also part of a project with the British Council titled “My Father’s House” which toured the Middle East last year.
Abduljawad has been taking pictures for the past 12 years and obtained her Fine Arts degree in photography and sculpture from the University of Oregon and her Master of Fine Arts from Georgia. She also teaches photography at Dar Al-Hekma and owns her own production company called Wed Productions.
In Serene Ghazzawi’s “Light in a Door,” her focus is on color and detail. The photograph portrays light shining through a hand-crafter door and highlights the colors of orange, red and brown as well as blue from a hanging lamp.
“Life is color. God didn’t create the world in black and white, and that’s how I want to portray it,” says Ghazzawi.
Ghazzawi loves close-ups and art photography. Having a degree in Portraiture and Color, she has been taking pictures for the past 13 years and has showcased her work in local, national and international exhibitions. She also independently teaches photography courses.
When asked about the obstacles Saudi women face, Abdelrazek replied that they are no different from those male photographers face. She also added that men are being overshadowed due to the spotlight on Saudi women in general.
What is being agreed on, however, is a lack of support, appreciation and sponsorship for photography in the Kingdom. According to photographer Duha Engawi, many Saudi women (including herself) hold exhibitions outside the country as a result. However, as Abdelrazek’s success story proves, things are changing for the better.
Abdelrazek obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Visual Media Communications and her Master of Arts in Film and Video Communications from the American University in Washington, DC. She has contributed to many international exhibitions where she received several awards.
She also helped found the first women’s photography club in the Kingdom and was involved in developing the Photography Diploma Program at Dar Al-Hekma College and other institutions in the Kingdom. She has been teaching photography and video editing courses at Dar Al-Hekma College for more than eight years now. In fact, that is how she teamed up with most of the talented Saudi women photographers to promote their work.
“To be part of the team of Saudi Arabian women photography pioneers has been a gratifying reward,” Abdelrazek writes in her book. Her goal is to promote the work of Saudi women in the Western world and sees both the exhibition and book as great starting points.
“My wish is that this book will help motivate others to share their unique visions with the world. I hope the work will help increase awareness, pride and appreciation for our cultural heritage,” she says.
Abdelrazek’s book, Photography Through the Eyes of Saudi Arabian Women, is being sold for SR200.

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