Middle Eastern Photographers Show Us The World Through Their Lenses

The Talking Point, Middle Eastern Photographers, Photographers, Photography, Abdulla Elmaz, Marta Lamovsek, Hayat Osamah, Bachar Srour
Abdulla Elmaz; Marta Lamovsek; Hayat Osamah; Bachar Srour
We turn the cameras on the lifeblood of the creative industry; six of the region’s most talented, rising-star photographers whose job it is to shape how we see the world

It’s a rare event that the maestros behind the lens get a chance to shine in front of it. Often - and ironically - camera-shy, fame-averse and dressed in a lo-fi uniform of ripped jeans and battered All Stars, the photographer is the invisible hero behind the beauty. And as a region that is producing some of the most gifted around, we thought it was about time to pay tribute to the ones making waves, and to try to see things through their eyes for a change…

ABDULLA ELMAZ

Age: 28

Nationality: Albanian and Turkish, born and raised in Australia, based in Dubai

Abdulla's surrealist imagery includes motifs of the desert, crocodiles, and a defying of the laws of gravity

Courtesy of Abdulla Elmaz

First memory of photography?
I chose photography as my medium in my high-school art class. The first shoot I did was on my friend’s farm; I had brought a trampoline to an open space and shot my friends posing in the air.

What makes an incredible photographer?
Someone who doesn’t give up, who has drive and who isn’t afraid to stand out from the rest. A big thing that I personally love in a photographer is when they tell a story in a single picture instead of focusing on a series of images to do that. It makes it so much more interesting.

Which iconic image do you wish you had taken?
Hands down, Helmut Newton’s Crocodile eating Ballerina. It’s the best image I’ve ever seen and I still don’t know how it’s done. That what I love to see; images that make me think how?!

Breakthrough moment?
Back in 2017, when my old business partner up and left. Being alone took me on a path of doubt, but along the way helped manifest the style I have today.

Most challenging thing about your job?
It’s important that everyone on set has good energy. When there’s negativity, it can and will be felt by everybody. We’re all on a set to reach a common goal, so I always think, ‘Let’s just make this easy for one another.’

What’s your ultimate goal?
To get a worldwide campaign for Louis Vuitton. Once I feel like I’ve done every possible thing in photography, and reached all my goals as an artist, then I want to focus strictly on art directing and would love to do music videos and shoot album covers.

Define your aesthetic
Loneliness, heartbreak, sadness, confusion, calmness and a glimpse of hope. I take all of these emotions that I’ve gone through in life and try to turn them into a dream-like landscape that makes people forget about how sad the photo is.

Tell us about working as a creative in Dubai
If I’m honest, I’ve had some of the most creative times of my career in the past seven months of being here. But I’ve also noticed that, to actually get booked, I’ve had to commercialise myself a lot. I know my style is too much for most, so I accept what’s needed. But is it changing? Time will tell.

How can creativity blossom further in the region?
Creativity comes from within. A place can alter that, but in this region it’s about people opening their minds to new ideas and visuals and accepting the change that’s coming.

MARTA LAMOVSEK

Age: 40+

Nationality: Slovenian, based in Dubai and Europe

Race Free, Caroline Labouchere in the Icon Booth, and Ashiq The Rockstar, all by Marta Lamovsek

Courtesy of Marta Lamovsek

First memory of photography?
A small girl with wide eyes looking at Dia Slides from a family seaside holiday via small plastic ‘70s house projector. Just beautiful!

What makes an incredible photographer?
When they make images you can recognise as theirs just by one glance, or when you get so touched by them that you stare at the photograph for more than seven seconds.

Who is your photography icon?
I have three: Richard Avedon, Peter Lindbergh and Helmut Newton.

Favourite picture ever taken?
My favourite picture I ever took is Ashiq The Rockstar- the Pakistani construction worker with the most hypnotic blue eyes.

Which iconic image do you wish you had taken?
One that comes to mind is Peter Lindbergh’s Angel in NYC with Amber Valetta for US Harper’s Bazaar in 1993.

Breakthrough moment?
I was working at London fashion Week in 2011 and Dame Vivienne Westwood gave me an enormous compliment after I’d said something rather silly to her. I remember thinking, ‘My biggest icon in life likes me! I’ve made it!”

Best thing about your job?
I can get away with being myself - as non-conformist, free-spirited and idealistic as I like! Classic social rules don’t necessarily apply; it’s a ticket to the universe of freedom of expression. But truly the best thing is that I get to meet so many amazing people, who - some of which - turn into lasting friends! That's priceless. Plus, I make portraits that last forever. I guess that's not too bad either.

What’s your ultimate goal?
I wish to grow into a woman who truly evolves as a human being. The journey is still long, but one day she beats the ego entirely; she beams as radiant as the sun onto everyone she encounters and sprinkles that contagious energy around the world!

How would you define your aesthetic?
It’s about humanity. I’ve developed two very different aesthetics - one is colourful and inspired by cultural diversity, and the other is black and white and more about conveying emotions than character or art direction. Nevertheless, I think most of my portraits are essentially my subconscious self-portraits.

Tell us about working as a creative in the region?
Over the past few years, I’ve seen the new blood of creativity that came with the generation who grew up here or had been studying in major global cities and then came back. It’s a fireball of fresh air, and it’s exciting to be inspired by all of that. Plus everyone brings their own heritage into the mix. I adore this place because of the multiculturalism - that’s what makes the creative process here so special and we have a unique position in the world because of it.

What is needed for creativity to blossom further in the region?
People need to stop being afraid. You will get criticised. But the fear to express yourself is the number one crippling point for an artist.

HAYAT OSAMAH

Age: 26

Nationality: Saudi, based in Riyadh

Above left: Hayat's favourite image; two friends trying to unpick the mistery of 35mm cameras. Above right: ornamental coverings

Courtesy of Hayat Osamah

First memory of photography?
That was me taking pictures of my own outfits! But my first legitimate photography session was when my friend volunteered to model for me because I couldn’t afford to paying models at that time.

What makes an incredible photographer?
When the photographer finds their own style and touch that makes their photos really stand out in a crowd. So something truly identifiable.

Who is your photography icon?
To me, [American street-style and portrait photographer] Bruce Gilden is the absolute best there is. He captures visually fascinating people rather than just beautiful ones. So that feels raw and real.

Favourite picture ever taken?
It was when I started using a medium format 6x6 camera. That roll of film still contains one of my best ever shots. It was at Aldeera Street, where two of my friends where standing in front of me, holding two of my 35mm cameras and trying to figure them out.

Breakthrough moment?
When I realised that my work was being recognised as different. That moment to me wasn’t about just being unique, it was about realising that my work is felt.

Best thing about your job?
The process. The fact that I don’t see my results immediately taught me a lot about being patient and the matter of trusting myself.

Most challenging thing about your job?
Finding a good, local darkroom to process my films, because the worst is shipping the rolls of films - it costs a fortune! Especially when you’re just experimenting.

What’s your ultimate goal?
To participate in opening a film-photography school in Saudi.

Tell us about working as a creative in Saudi
I think it has changed drastically. The industry is now focusing more on the art and creative fields, and that has given so many more opportunities for young, upcoming artists.

How can creativity blossom further in the region?
Through being able to express yourself fully without limiting your vision.

BACHAR SROUR

Age: 35

Nationality: Lebanese, based in Beirut

Bachar's lo-fi work is part of an increasingly popular nostalgic aesthetic across magazines and Instagram alike

Courtesy of Bachar Srour

First memory of photography?
Probably during at my first year in college, where I remember seeing a conceptual photo on [online art gallery] DeviantArt.

What makes an incredible photographer?
The way they tackle the subject, and in what medium, and then how they present it.

Who is your photography icon?
The German photographer and director, Daniel Sannwald.

Favourite picture ever taken?
That’s easy – it was of my mother!

Which iconic image do you wish you had taken?
Robert Doisneau’s Picasso and The Loaves from 1952. Genius.

Breakthrough moment?
My first fashion editorial.

Best thing about your job?
I don't have to work every day!

Most challenging thing about your job?
To carry on updating your aesthetic while at the same time staying true to yourself.

What’s your ultimate goal?
To have a family.

How would you define your aesthetic?
Raw and sometimes pretty blunt.

Tell us about working as a creative in the region?
The photography scene in Lebanon has slowly but steadily changed a lot in the last couple of years. The clients now are more aware and accepting of a far more natural approach to fashion in general, including photography. Before it used to be all glamour.

What is needed for creativity to blossom further in the region?
More honest judgement from the creative people in power. When a certain aesthetic doesn't serve its purpose in the region, or it's been overused, they should have the resolution to introduce something new to the market.


From Harper's Bazaar Arabia October 2019 Issue

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The Talking Point, Middle Eastern Photographers, Photographers, Photography, Abdulla Elmaz, Marta Lamovsek, Hayat Osamah, Bachar Srour
Abdulla Elmaz; Marta Lamovsek; Hayat Osamah; Bachar Srour