Abu Dhabi: Meet the ‘Identity and My Community’ photography competition winners

Fatma Ali
One of Fatma Ali’s winning entries. Image Credit: Supplied

Twenty-seven shots to communicate with the world. Twenty-seven ways in which to explain your identity, your community. Twenty-seven moments in time to showcase who you really are – that’s what Manarat Al Saadiyat and Sole DXB’s analogue photography competition ‘Identity and My Community’ demanded.

Local amateur photographers were tasked with taking photographs using a disposable 35mm black and white film camera to represent their identity and community.

Documentary photographers Janette Beckman and Jorge Peniche joined CONTACT HIGH exhibition curator Vikki Tobak in selecting 10 winning images.

The winners are: Raheed Allaf (Dubai); Fatma Ali (Ajman); Fatima Almaazmi (Ajman); Zeashan Ashraf (Dubai); Mark Issa (Abu Dhabi); Ron John (Sharjah); Akmaral Matkaliyeva (Abu Dhabi); Salem Alsuwaidi (Abu Dhabi); Aiham Al Subaihi (Abu Dhabi).

Gulf News caught up with two of the winners – Aiham Al Subaihi and Fatma Ali – to ask about their winning entries, using analogue in a digital age an what this win really means to them. These are excerpts from the interviews.

Aiham Al Subaihi is an Emirati filmmaker based in Abu Dhabi.

Aiham Al Subaihi
Aiham Al Subaihi’s winning image Image Credit: Supplied

What was the thought behind your winning picture?

My thoughts were to kind of split the amount of pictures I had – that is 27 in the camera – into three themes. The first would be real people, so this would be me stopping people in the middle of the road or the middle of their job and taking pictures of them. The second theme, which is what this picture fell upon, is I took my nephews and nieces and I asked them to wear traditional clothes but as well as express themselves as modern teenagers. We shot it [the photo] here, where I live, in Munera beach, that’s why you can see Etihad Arena in the back as well as the new hotel at the end of the pier. And I just wanted to get the best picture of this place with these kids who want to express themselves as Neo-Bedouins, or Modern Bedoins. The third section was to recreate people how I see them. For example, I have an Emirati friend who owns four dogs and has a daughter, so I got him in his neighbourhood walking his dogs just to reflect on what kind of characteristic I see this person has.

What drew you to this competition?

Honestly what draws me to this competition is the fact that I wasn’t able to edit it because I’m not a professional photographer so I take pictures and then I rework them to make them something better. I like the fact that it was a very raw experience in the sense that what I photographed was what I have – this is what made me take up the competition as a filmmaker and not as a photographer.

It was a learning experience – some photos were very dark. I have not used analogue for a couple of decades. It was exciting that I had to wait for a period of time to get the photos that I have. And I have to be honest – a lot of the pictures came out just black because I had messed up with the lighting and aperture.

Finally, what does this win mean to you?

This win branches out a different crowd of people that I can reach out to as an artist and being a part of CONTACT HIGH… it’s an absolute honour to be recognised, for the art to be recognised even with judges worldwide.

Fatma Ali is a 24-year-old junior architect with a penchant for photography.

Fatma Ali
One of Fatma Ali’s winning shots. Image Credit: Supplied

What inspired your winning shots?

I wanted to show how we view the world and ourselves through these shots.

How did you go about setting up the photographs.

To link my photographs and artworks to my identity and culture, my house is the answer to this set-up. It shows the set-up which people – and I – considered private. The people that are in the photos are my family. [The pictures also show] the customs, the dresses and environmental behavior in general.

What was shooting in analogue like?

While I like both [digital and analogue photography], this was my first time trying analogue photos and of course there’s a huge difference between both digital and analogue, like how you capture the images. In the analogue camera, the film is the most sensitive part. It needs more effort than digital photography, which is also considered real and true and natural. Analogue was fun – the idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting. I was thrilled to wait and see the results of the pictures that I had taken.

What does this win mean to you?

Nowadays, to make a positive impact in a digital era, visual contact is vital. So many types of visual content are available – I think it’s essential to find out what kind of digital content makes the most impact in our culture. I consider myself a visual learner – I believe my photography is considered positive impact to the digital world – they [viewers] get to learn about our society, our cultural image, which I decided to show. By winning I believe that I have exceeded the part of translating my photography…people are finally understanding me.

Don’t miss it!

The winning images of the ‘Identity and My Community’ competition are on display at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi and can be viewed daily from 10am – 8pm. Tickets are Dh30.