Photography and Narrative by Sala Alawadhi
Interviewed by Hisham Abdualziz (Check his Jambia series)
Hisham: When did you realize you are interested in photography?
Sala Alawadhi: I discovered my fondness for photography in my last year in Paris. I started off by taking picture using my father’s old Nokia phone and from there on I saw good composition in my photographs. I then shifted to a regular digital camera where I would take random pictures of anything. The thrill I got from taking pictures had me realise that I absolutely love photography. Returning home in 2008 I continued my hobby until I decided to buy a professional camera in 2010 and started a Flickr account. I finally decided that I should take photography as a serious hobby and start working on it.
Hisham: What does photography means to you and what inspires your work?
Sala: Often people would say that a photograph is filled with a thousand words. But the way I see it is: As we all know and would agree, a photography is a motionless 2D image that has been captured at a certain moment to express a certain feeling or situation. But for me, I can’t help but see photography is a 3D mobile actionable real life situation that reveals the moment I am expereicing my surroundings. I feel it all, whether a photograph was taken in Cuba or India or Africa or Europe; during war or during peace; in the 19th century or this year; during hunger or during wealth; abstract or concrete; whether I have been to these places or not; I am there. Photographs take me on so many journeys solely by looking at a well composed one. And that is what inspires my photography. It triggers a feeling of attendance and inexplicable elation and completely reflects the sensation on me, leaving me feeling whatever the image is conveying. And that is also why I take pictures, so that people could feel the same.
Hisham: How can you represent your yemeni identity through your photos ?
Sala: Yemen is erupting with cultural diversity, from accents, to costumes, to symbols, to architectural structures and so on. Despite adversity, I for one aim to represent and store my yemeni identity by taking pictures of Yemen’s customs and social behaviour which all the same represent the cultural diversity. It is a way to share with the world what we are and what we do. For example, in my photo-essay about Jewel making in Yemen (in Old Sana’a more specifically) I tried to portray the Yemeni identity through the material, the process, the shapes, and the result as proof of what we can do and how a jewel in Yemen would look like. In other images, I would capture a certain tradition being practiced to also spread how we behave from day to day and how different yet the same we all are.
Hisham: Is there any behind the scene stories happened while you were shooting photo-essay ?
Sala: While I was shooting my photo-essay I met with wonderful and truly genuine people. The best part about going to the Old City is that I can truthfully feel accommodated, warmed and welcomed by everyone. And since my essay was about jewellery, I met with three jewel makers that restored my faith in good-will and honesty. I was often greeted with some tea and sweets. I learned plenty from them about jewellery and the history of jewellery in Yemen. I heard about the problems they were facing with imitation of Yemeni jewels and fake Yemeni rocks “Akeek” by other countries. All I can say is they were simple people with simple equipment making fascinating wonders.