Monochrome Monologues | Finding light with photography with Reem Al Faisal
In Jeddah at large, 2023 is to be the year of long-awaited art shows, gallery openings and more. The city, which has always been known for its historical and cultural significance, is host to not only the monumental Islamic Arts Biennale but also various other artistic experiences that are giving a space for numerous artists and visual storytellers to display their creative visions.
One such show is States of Light, a photography exhibition by maven Reem Al Faisal, who with her numerous years in the field has garnered a vast repertoire of photographs that have been showcased in Saudi Arabia and the world.
Al Faisal’s photography is a visual representation of philosophy, humanity, and play between light and dark. Her images are like windows into the soul that upon a glance draw your attention to some of the most subtle details on the earth. Through her lens, life becomes larger than it really is and one is engulfed in narratives of emotions and feelings within time. Ultimately this experience can only be compared to walking through a maze, and finding the door at the end.
At the exhibition, we had the opportunity to ask the photographer herself about the thought process behind creating the collection. “This exhibition is a retrospect of my work, spanning over more than 30 years. And I consider all my work like one book with various chapters, so the title of this exhibition, States of Light, sums up all my photography collections. The basis of my photography philosophy was inspired by Islamic photography in art. One of the most important elements of Muslim art is light, it comes from ayat from the Quran ‘God is the light of the heavens and earth.’ If you see all Islamic art,it is playing with the light either exposing the light or hiding it, which for me is, symbolizes the state of human beings. We are all in between the light and the dark, swinging from side to side.”
Al Faisal also chose the name States of light because of its transitory immateriality as she explains, “For me, it’s neither a place nor a time because I am talking about something that is beyond time and beyond space, I am talking about the eternal the relationship between the human being with god, the hidden and the unseen and how it’s something you can feel, through the manifestation of God’s power and beauty around us, these photographs here are just moments of me trying to find the hidden.”
All the photographs in her collection are monochrome, playing around with various shades of gray. “It symbolizes the human being we are all gray, there is no perfect white or perfect black. My photography is really about the metaphysical, beyond the physical the symbolic and the philosophical, and with black and white it forces the spectator to disassociate with reality in his life. What he feels and sees which is all in color, so with black and white and monochrome they are forced to go beyond the physical towards the hidden and spiritual.”
Reem Al Faisal’s number one advice to aspiring photographers
“Study their craft, if you want to be a master photographer. Because to master photography the technique is easy. You can learn that in one week, it’s all about practice. By doing so, it becomes instinctive, adding ‘Be the most difficult critic of yourself.’”
Indeed, the dazzling pictures of Reem Al Faisal are not only a source of delight and inspiration, but also reveal an insider’s perspective of Saudi society. This is an exhibition that we highly recommend to all those who wish to know more about Saudi culture, both past and present.
The show is being held at Wasl Art Space and ends April 23, 2023