Riyadh - Arabstoday
Saudi photographer Marwah AlMugait is known for her black and white photos, portraits and street photography. Her love for light made her a professional in lighting both inside and outside her studio. Her recent photo shoot made headlines in well-known publications inside and outside the Kingdom for her portrayal of the original Gulf woman.
AlMugait was born in Alkhobar and raised in Riyadh. She studied her bachelor’s degree in business at King Saud University. “Currently, I moved to London for my master studies in photojournalism,” she said. “I applied for this because of the combination I found between theory and practice of photography in a professional level. Add to that the understanding of the contemporary photojournalism, which I’m seeking for in order to combine it together with my existing skills.”
Being blessed with unique parents, who had a great interest in art and tourism, gave her the accessibility to be introduced and exposed to many cultures. “To me, traveling is a source of knowledge that gave me a strong base in my current career as a photographer. Buildings, colors and languages have been a major inspiration to me. I fully believe that the more I share, the more I gain,” said AlMugait.
It was 11 years back when AlMugaith had her first Canon film camera and that’s when she started shooting random pictures with black and white film. To her, photography was initially a hobby that she intended to evolve into a career. “I found myself constantly searching for the perfect shot, whether it was trying to capture innocence in the face of a child, history from an old man or an unforgettable moment between friends. The tendency toward capturing such moments provoked a combination of building an aesthetic point of view and executing a professional production,” she explained.
AlMugait’s photos are mostly portraits and street photography. She says that this is what mostly captures her eyes. “I am enticed by the beauty and the artistic elements of photography. The shade and the light are my major attractions to photography. I do describe myself as a light addict because it’s very impressive how light changes the composition of an image and how it can create new dimensions to the subject,” she said. “Faces and features are always a major attraction to my eyes. For that reason, I focused on portraits whether it was fashion or street photography.”
According to AlMugait, photographing indoors and outdoors both has its own flavor and effect on an image. She believes that it depends on the project itself, how the photographer visualizes the image and how dramatic it should be.
“Being a Saudi photographer, I was challenged by the immobility and the lack of the flexibility to practice my profession in the outdoors such as street photography,” she said. “The culture acceptance for such activities is still limited which goes parallel to the level of art awareness. That was a great motivation for me and many other Saudi female photographers to create their own environment by establishing private studios where it can provide us with the space, the required lighting and the flexibility of choosing the photographic project.”
AlMugait always aimed to be a professional photographer, but after all the years trying to be one, she came to realize that professionalism doesn’t only require the understanding of the technical part of photography. It also requires the ability of having a combination of understanding both in practice and theory. “You need to be able to know how to talk about your work and what it demonstrates. You also need to how to gain content each time you want to convey a message in a photo. Sharing knowledge is my fuel. The more I share, the more I gain. For that reason, I am hoping to teach at the newly established Art and Design college here in Riyadh after I get my degree,” she said.
“Avant Garde Arabia” is her recent favorite project that she worked on, which is a series that has the artistic concept of the avant-garde combined with traditional Arabic costumes and presented in a contemporary theme of studio photography. “The aim of that project was to focus on the cultural female costumes that had been forgotten throughout our modern days. It was a great inspiration to me, as it motivated me to redefine it,” said AlMugait.
“Since I come from multi Arab Gulf backgrounds, I was very much exposed to these costumes from an early age. I was also fond of them, starting from the Bahraini pure silk abaya, to AlNashel thobe that was used commonly in the past during the celebrations and weddings in many Arab Gulf countries like Kuwait and Qatar, and finally, the burqa, which many elderly women wear it until today in the United Arab of Emirates and Qatar as well,” she added.
Visualizing all these rich cultural elements with their unique designs and lines being merged with a contemporary theme of photography and presenting an artistic concept of the avant-garde was the start of this project. “My vision was to create a bridge between two different eras between the old times and the modern days and to link a Western artistic concept [the avant-garde] with essential Arabic traditional women outfits,” said AlMugait.
The most memorable assignment and the one close to AlMugait’s heart was the one done in October 2011. She did coverage for the London Film Festival Premieres, which was part of her studies. “It was quite a unique experience. The uniqueness wasn’t related to the celebrities by any means; it was related to the crowds and the fans who were waiting for hours and hours for them,” she said. “It makes you pause for few minutes and try to analyze how passionate and patient they are just to have a glimpse of their idol who rushes into the theater in 15 seconds.”