RIYADH: At a time when one might consider analog photography an outdated craft, it is actually becoming increasingly popular around the world, including in Saudi Arabia.
“Photos are humanity’s closest thing to time travel,” said photographer Abdullah Al-Azzaz, who followed in the footsteps of his father, Saleh, who was also a photographer.
The new Bayt Al-Malaz – a creative space in the heart of Riyadh’s Malaz district – recently hosted an intriguing conversation about the importance and popularity of analog photography between Al-Azzaz and Princess Reem Al-Faisal, moderated by Sarah Assiri. The event was part of Bayt Al-Malaz’s “Moflmeen” discussion series.
The two photographers addressed the question of why – when digital cameras are so ubiquitous and easy to use – analog is making a comeback.
“My photography revolves around permanence, praise, eternity and our spiritual side. The individual is a soul and not a body,” Al-Faisal said. soul. We are all born with natural instincts, and the film, in its natural form, is intact. It depicts the soul transforming after birth as it copes with life, accumulations and memories – good and bad. It’s a way of expressing humanity.
Al-Azzaz said that for him it was more about technique than philosophy. “The experience of developing in a darkroom is so rewarding. It separates you from the world, totally quiet and dark. It’s just you and the photo. It allows you to think more about the photo and gives you more freedom to reimagine it,” he said.
Photo manipulation, he explained, is not exclusive to digital photography. Before the existence of Photoshop, images could be manipulated in the darkroom using retouching techniques and tools including cropping, brushing, dodge, etching, and masking.
To truly understand the true art of photography, some would say, it is important to learn its history. Digital photography does not replace film, but a completely different medium. “In all art, not just photography, we must have cultural, historical and technical awareness…we are all accumulation,” Al-Faisal said. “We are a product of our society and a product of our time. We can’t pretend we don’t care [by these things]. Anyone who claims otherwise is delusional.
While analog photography is becoming increasingly popular among Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a dearth of publicly accessible labs and studios. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has been reduced from four to just one space – Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the lead time of film development.
Studio founder Haitham Al-Sharif explained the immersive nature of analog photography. “I chose film photography because I hated having nothing to do with my photos. With film photography, I take a maximum of 40 photos per session. I can’t see them; I have to live in the moment, I have to listen and feel the streets, I have to talk about myself if I’m doing his portraits, I have to listen to the music if I’m at a concert,” he said. Arab News. “For me, it’s art. That’s the beauty of cinema.
The lengthy process involved in analog photography can be daunting and off-putting for amateur photographers. This is why the development of the first digital camera in 1975 was so revolutionary. Today, in an economy driven by content creation and visual media, producing content is easier and faster than ever. But for some, the main difference is in the creative experience itself. Some analog photographers suggest it’s a way to really connect with the moment, even if the results aren’t always what the company deems ‘Instagram-worthy’.
“When you can’t see the photo, you don’t have to edit it to match what the media thinks is good or what a magazine thinks is good. Cinema forces you to be patient and slow. It forces you to live in the (moment),” Al-Sharif said. “As a film photographer, you live as much in front of the lens as behind the lens. You become more connected to what you photograph.