Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Emerging Mystery

"AN EMERGING MYSTERY" - photo by SEBASTIAN FARMBOROUGH

When I first saw this image of a fully veiled Muslim woman in water, I was blown away by the beauty and sheer simplicity of it. I received permission from photographer Sebastian Farmborough, who took this stunning picture, to publish it on my blog, along with his explanation about the photo's background. Here, in his own words, is Sebastian Farmborough's story behind this photo...

"The image is based on one of my very first experiences in Saudi Arabia: With the naked beaches of Barcelona a not too distant memory... I headed down to the Arabian Gulf for a dip. There, I became mystified by something black and obscure out at sea. It looked like a huge jellyfish. Then, as it approached, I realised that it was in fact a woman.

It was such an intense experience that I just had to capture it for myself. However, it was not until a few years later in Dubai, when I had acquired the equipment and expertise necessary, that I was able to execute it. Anyone trying to take a picture like this in Saudi Arabia would run the risk of ending up in prison, so in the more liberal country of the UAE, I was able to realise it.

It actually took me a year to find the right lady. Yes, there are lots of women with beautiful eyes in the Emirates, but finding an open-minded enough one to do it, now that was a challenge!

The picture itself was taken at dawn on the Burj Al Arab beach. I chose that time, because I wanted extremely soft light to fall on her and the sun to reflect in her eyes. It was winter, so the sea was freezing and we were both deep into it. It was an incredible experience. The model and I had only met a couple of times prior to the shoot so we actually got to know each other as it went on, finishing with a nice hot chocolate on the beach afterwards.

The photo is entitled "An Emerging Mystery" and I feel as though it is extremely symbolic of Muslim women's increasing prominence in the world, despite a continued mystery. The Saudi veil is so often portrayed negatively in the West that I hope to counteract that somewhat and prevent the Western public from being mislead. Many Muslim women actually choose to wear it and I am more than happy to respect that.

The image marks the beginning of a project that I have been wanting to carry out for some time. All we ever hear about Saudi Arabia seems to be negative, where as having lived there for 3 years, I can assure you that the reality is quite different. In fact, there are many things that we westerns could actually learn from them. I really admired and enjoyed the strength of their friendships, the closeness of their families, their sense of humour, and how friendly and generous they are. With this and other images I would like to try and redress the balance a bit and produce a book reflecting the more magical aspects of the kingdom."

24 comments:

  1. The picture is beautiful. I can understand some women wanting the privacy of covering some of the time. I wish it were only an option;not a requirement.

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  2. Extraordinary photo. The model must have been very braved to face the cold water and all other odds.

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  3. Just because people choose to do something doesn't make it a good thing. The extreme covering in Saudi Arabia is either brainwashing or oppression (I lean towards oppression).

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  4. Wow, that is an amazing photo. I also love the photographer's commentary.

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  5. Wow! What a powerful image and impressive artistic description! I love the photographer's explanation of his attempt to re-frame western perspectives of Saudi / Muslim women. Having been in Jeddah for a year now myself, I wholeheartedly agree that we need to work to "redress the balance" of western conceptions of the Muslim world.

    Thanks for sharing, Susie!

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  6. It is such a beautiful photo. If her identity was revealed, would this young lady be punished for it?

    Thank you for sharing.

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  7. It is such a beautiful photo. If her identity was revealed, would this young lady be punished for it?

    Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I admire the perseverance of the photographer to realize his vision. Thank you for sharing both the photograph and the artist's experience.

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  8. What a wonderful photo congratulations to the model for her bravery and the photographer for his persistence. This is an image that I would enjoy see on my wall!

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  9. A Canadian ReaderAug 21, 2012, 4:58:00 AM

    It's a beautiful photo, but really, only a man could wax poetic on KSA. I'm sure he wouldn't find it such a marvellous place if he was a woman and subject to the inhuman limitations on freedom that they must endure. Just saying.

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    1. I do secound that from my own experience. I am a women who grew up in South America,lived for several years in Canada and now I'm living in Jeddah where I am applying to the same dresscode as in the picture. I do not feel in anyway that its limitating my freedom as a person, much rather its liberating in many ways.

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  10. This is an excellent photo and I fully understand that in Saudi Arabia it does have positives; however, the positives do not out shadow the many negatives that the society forces upon individuals. I and many others can appreciate the closeness of the families, sense of humor and generousity. However, many other cultures and countries share those same traits but what they don't share is the blatant disregard of human rights, the systematic discrimation and gender apartheid, the inquisition, and the human rights violations that people are forced to endure whereby religious police in the zealous harass the populace and commit crimes such as killing innocents under the guise of witchcraft or to lash or torture or imprison an individual on a percieved insult to a death alleged prophet. In addition, many other countries of today would never allow such fanatics to issue irresponsible fatwas that create and cause harm, death, or torture without some type of consequences. Next most countries actually don't have people demanding the death of a 23 years who mildly talks with an alleged dead prophet and deem it to be an insult to which over 30,000 saudi arabian individuals demand his immediate death nor would they extradict anyone on this absurd charge as it does not nor did it ever rise to a level of anything other than twitter banter. I haven't even spoke on the numerous slave conditions of expats or the numerous violations of contracts with these employees or the conditions in which they must live. Next, no one has a problem with women who actually choice to wear a particular attire as long as it is her choice. However, no such choice exists in Saudi as they are forced to wear the attire and the society has a construct which demeans women who do not and it demeans their abilities to include but not limited to working, driving, education, and having autonomy over their lives. When Saudi begans addressing these issues then and only then will people appreciate the positives that Saudi has until then the negative will always outweigh it's positives particular as they have numerous human right violations and positions to which cannot nor should not be overlooked or sidetracked.

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  11. I love it, I miss Jeddah and wearing niqab in Makkah

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  12. Was this lady an Arab?

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  13. Beautiful photo! At first I thought it had been photo-shopped but apparently not.

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  14. The question for me is still does she really want to be wearing all that in the water? If she does, great! If she doesn't, it's a mystery why she stays where she has to swim in something that could drown her from it's weight if she's not careful. Oh, well, it's all been said before.

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  15. Until women actually have the freedom to make the decision on what they can wear without reprisals his statement is hollow and smacks of polical correctness at the expense of girls and women. Next all societies value their families and their women but many do not take their right to automony, self and choice away from them to include the right to drive, make attire choices, or to openly reject societies social constructs such as they are deemed to be house pets with less intelligence or religion. If you value someone you will not imprison them in a system that devalues you or debases you or limits you movement or your right to public access or sphere. Until this changes again his statements are hollow and lacking.

    It is a interesting picture but maybe it should be that women are just keeping the head above the water of abusive systems.

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  16. It is a beautiful photo. And I am glad you enjoyed your 3 years here.

    I have found many wonderful people here. But I never let that mislead me into somehow believing that all the horrible negative things about this place- some of which make it into the western media are somehow not true- just because I have a good life here. Many are suffering tremendously and I feel it's incumbent on those of us living the good life to speak the truth about the system that subjugates so many. Those voices have little chance to speak for themselves.

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  17. The image is a bit like one of Harry Callahan's photos of his wife. The Callahan photo is more realistic and less of a fashion photo (I am sure the photographer is familiar with it even if his audience is less so).

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  18. Hi Susie,

    I love it <3 thnx for sharing

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