As told to SALIM AL AFIFI
Photography is my own fantasy world. I started photography back in 2010 when my father finally gave me permission to use his travelling camera. It was a digital compact camera, and I remember photographing a lot of nature and architecture in my neighbourhood. I was my father’s muse growing up; he was the family photographer and my biggest inspiration. He took a ton of film pictures of our family and friends. Every time I would open this case that was hidden in his closet, which had all the pictures he has been taking in the past, I would surf through all of them and hope that I’ll be owning a film camera one day.
In 2015, I bought my first film camera, it changed the whole photography game for me; it became the tool to express or interpret my visions and became the mediator to become more social with people. For the first film rolI, I shot an old friend of mine. The shoot was a great opportunity to catch up with her, and the pictures came out beautiful. That particular session motivated me to shoot more portraits. Since then, I’ve been only shooting on my 35mm film manual camera, mainly in portraiture.
Film photography is everything for me right now, people will think I’m crazy to shoot on film, and use an old vintage camera, but the experience of using film is a whole different level of photography. I also never edit my film pictures, the only edit I would do is crop or add canvas borders. They are as raw as photography gets.
When I was selected to be part of the Stal Gallery’s Emerging Artists, that took part in January 2018, I was stunned. It was one of the best moments of my life. I had the pleasure of exhibiting four of my artworks. It was that very moment that I considered myself an artist and a conceptual photographer instead of just a ‘photographer’.
In my artworks, I focus on emphasising the background I come from, my culture, my family and my own beliefs. I always like to include natural light, architecture, and Omani suburbia as elements in my work. I try to mix between past and present, and add some touches from other cultures to shed light on the mix of cultures we have in here in Oman. Right now, I’m exploring, discovering and researching more on religion; to translate my point of view of religion in my next project.
The most influential element I would say is my past and my family’s past, as well as modern pop art. And the art scene in Oman has become quite supportive; there is an acceptance of all kind of creativity among the current generation in the country. My fellow Omani artists truly inspire me as well. People like Ali Al Sharji, Chndy, Rawan Al Mahrooqi, Ruqaiya Al Balushi, and many others.
Being acknowledged in the Omani art scene was such a pivotal moment in my life. My goal is to make people curious and to inspire them to see a bit of themselves in every person on this planet, regardless of gender, age, colour, culture, or religion.
– Tariq Al Hajri, a conceptual photographer from Sur, Oman