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A Global Perspective Photography Exhibition

A Global Perspective Photography Exhibition

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I consider my photography exhibition currently at Mashq Art Space entitled A Global Perspective as my first “real” exhibition. I’m happy with the impact it has had and the number of visitors who have dropped in. I’m also thrilled to have received some valuable feedback and comments from visitors. I highly value their opinions.

I also want to make it clear that I am not discounting the smaller exhibition I have held at More Words Pop-up Shop. Not in the least. In fact, it was an excellent experience regardless of the number of people who actually visited. Seeing my photographs displayed on their wall was a good feeling of success. I would not hesitate to exhibit there again.

The best part of having an exhibition of my work is of course meeting a variety of people and having the opportunity to listen to them comment and even critique my work. I have been taking pictures since I was six, and apart from the customer virtual venues of my websites and the various other photography platforms I have tried over the years, I have never exhibited my work. This has now changed and I’m already thinking of future themes and pictures I can exhibit at physical venues. I didn’t expect it to be this much fun!

I dedicate both of these exhibitions to the memory of my late father, the great Bahraini pioneering artist Nasser Al-Yousif, who nurtured my talent and supported me in every way he could.

My interest in photography all started when I asked my father how was a photograph made. That was when I was six or seven years old I think. He explained it simplistically to me by saying that you put something called a negative on paper, then shine a light on it and the positive picture will come out on the paper.

Little did he know that I discussed this with my cousin Mohammed and I found one of dad’s negatives, got a piece of paper and we both sat on the stairs in our old home in the sun, exposing the negative and the paper to the sun. We sat there for ages and kept checking the paper for any hint of a picture developing. We even convinced ourselves that it was working! I can’t remember whether dad saw us sitting there on the stair in the sun when he came back home from work – he was a teacher at that time – or that I had gone to him with the negative and paper complaining that we sat there all day and nothing happened. But that experience resulted in my dad buying me my first camera.

And that’s how my passion for photography started.

A few years later, he even built me a dark room in a corner of his studio and bought me the projector and the chemicals so I started developing my own films. Photography has been part of me since then.

I kept my photography to myself until I got to high school where I suggested to the principal Mr Alsammak that I could start a photography club at the school – partly to get away from the hated physical education class which I felt was a waste of time! – and he agreed. He asked me what I needed and I gave him a list of equipment which he got supplied through the Ministry of Education and provided us with a room that we converted into a working darkroom. I got a few fellow students interested and that’s how the first photography club in a Bahraini school started.

I continued taking pictures and I think we exhibited some of our work at school functions and even participated in international competitions which we got to know about through photography magazines.

At university in Scotland, photography was an entrenched passion. The beauty of Scotland provided all the necessary inspiration to continue to take photographs at every opportunity I had. I constantly travelled all over Scotland with the goal of taking more pictures. I used to look forward to weekends so that I can go visit a loch or a farm or just a village or city to take pictures. I loved that time and have thousands of slides to prove it.

Once I retuned home after university I continued to practice photography and participated in the first photography exhibition by the Bahrain Art Society and one of my photographs won second place, and another won a consolation prize. I remember that my winning picture called Red Street – a long exposure of the in-construction highway going to Saudi. The long exposure and the street lights combined to provide a halo of red which was beautiful and etherial. That photograph was purchased by Shaikh Rashid Alkhalifa, and it was the very first picture I have ever sold. The consolation prize was a picture of the Bahrain Fort at Moonrise and it is actually exhibited now at the current exhibition. I love the purple hue of the picture and its a good documentary picture of how the fort used to be before it was renovated.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to exhibit again. This too was a chance encounter. I was visiting my brother Jamal’s (whose birthday is tomorrow, happy birthday bro!) excellent exhibition at Mashq Art Space when its owner artist and calligrapher Ali Albazzaz approached me to have a chat. I suggested that I would like to see my work exhibited at his space, half jokingly at the time. He responded by saying that he has a slot in April and for me to send him a portfolio to have a look at. I sent him a portfolio I created earlier and he accepted to provide me an exhibition slot.

I was thrilled. I was going to have my first photography exhibition!

Unfortunately he informed me later that the slot was no longer available. So as I had my portfolio ready, and at the encouragement of my wife, I sent it to Words which they accepted immediately, and I met with them to make the arrangements and agree on the other parameters.

I proceeded to print my portfolio and got the photographs framed in time for the exhibition at More Words which took place from 11 – 14 April 2018. As I was making the final arrangements, I got another call from Ali who informed me that the slot at Mashq was available again if I wanted it. That put me in a quandary. I had already committed to Words and I knew that if I accept Mashq’s slot – which is from 15 – 23 April – it will confuse people who might like to visit, and will also present a challenge for advertising both!

Me being me, I didn’t want to squander the opportunity and accepted both. I threw myself at the job of printing a bigger selection for Mashq as the space is quite larger than Words, and ran around ensuring that everything was taken care of.

I’m glad with how everything worked out in the end. Both experiences were valuable and both have now prepared me for future exhibitions which I am determined to do.

If you have a chance, please drop by Mashq until 23 April. I normally am there from around 7pm having their excellent chai karak and meeting with fellow photographers, artists and guests.

They will also be screening my film Triumph of Insight tomorrow night (18.4.18) at 8.30pm which will be followed by a question and answer session with me.

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Reflections on the Purpose of Life

Reflections on the Purpose of Life

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Over the last few months a change has descended on me. A restlessness that is not quenched just by going to work, making money and paying the bills. I most certainly came to the realisation a long time ago that I did not want such a life. That was, in fact, the primary reason why I left a secure and well paying career to embark on the much more difficult entrepreneurial journey. I believed that entrepreneurship would allow me the opportunity to gain control of my life and livelihood and open up the new horizons I was anxious to explore on my own terms.

I also know that it’s not an age thing, nor the fact that by May next year I would have fulfilled my self-imposed and welcomed obligation of seeing my children through their university education. My vision was to set them on their path of financial independence, and ultimately financial freedom. Arriving there; however, is completely up to them.

All I’m sure of is that this kind of restlessness isn’t new to me.

I decided not to go on summer holidays this year. I had too much going on and opted to stay and take care of things. A few days before Eid, I paused at a particularly difficult time I was going through and asked myself those question again: “is this it? is this what I got into business for? am I living to work, or working to live?” To be honest, I must confess that I’m most definitely living to work. I wasn’t an owner, I was owned. I refused to surrender to that. I had to get out even if for a few days. I reasoned that the business won’t collapse if I absented myself for a few days, and if it does, then it wasn’t worth the effort in the first place.

My wife did the smart thing and took Ramadhan off to visit her family in Scotland. I decided to surprise her by joining her. I called to ask her to pick me up from Edinburgh airport the next day. Needless to say she was surprised – pleasantly I might add – and that was the start of one of the best holidays I have ever had.

The spontaneity and the return to one of my cherished passions were what made this holiday so special. I took the time to ensure that I get some quality me time. I went jogging every day in beautiful surroundings, greenery all around, clouds in the sky, cool air, drizzle or rain sometimes, courteous people and drivers and the actual availability of continuous pavements! I also indulged in photography which was always my first love, and we both just decided on the spur of the moment to drive to a destination hundreds of miles away!

One of the long drive destinations was Inverness. I’ve always liked it and have fond memories of visiting the home of Nessie while at university in Scotland. I went jogging that morning and fell in love with the city again; its river and the breathtaking scenery it offered, the woods close to the city centre. In the evening we joined the throngs and discovered that Inverness has become the wild party town of the north. Such a happy atmosphere. We loved it.

From there we decided to go to Oban on the west coast. We still can’t remember why or how we thought of Oban and why we decided to visit. Nevertheless; while having dinner on arrival in Oban we noticed a nature walk in the close-by island of Kerrera in the local tourist map brochure and decided on the spot once again to go on that five mile walk the next day. That was one of the best decisions we have made on that trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was after four miles of walking in that beautiful wilderness that we encountered the first humans since leaving the ferry. Needless to say, we could have done the walk a lot faster, but we both decided to take it easy, enjoy the scenery and take some pictures. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you would have come across some them.

Memorial Bench, Kerrera Island, Scotland

To both Frances and I, we will never forget that trip. We really bonded and the walking and disconnecting from the world for a few days allowed us to re-connect and have long conversations without distractions.

All that forced me to reflect on what I require out of life now, at this particular stage in my life.

I realised that in Bahrain, I have been living to work with hardly any space left to enjoy the fruits of my labour. Yes, it was absolutely necessary to ensure that I meet the goals I have set for myself such a long time ago, but now that they are almost met, what next? Do I have to continue to toil at the same level? Or is it time to retire and relax? Although I’ve not yet decided what to do next, I can tell you that retirement isn’t in my consideration just yet. It’s not that kind of itch.

“What’s the ideal situation?” I keep asking myself. Obviously financial freedom continues to be an important goal, but so is actually living. Pragmatically, I’ve got a good thing going now, and its scary to let go. What is required, I feel, is actively pursuing a new way of life; one that prioritises working to live, rather than the opposite. This has become so important to me… and it’s threatening the old way of life. I don’t know where that will take me and I’m not going to allow a sudden shift to derail all the hard work that I have poured myself into. I will; however, find a way to detach myself gradually from the business and allow it to flourish without my constant availability and input. I need some time to think and need to put some plans into action.

New experiences, horizons, treks, open fields and skies are beckoning. I can’t wait for this new journey to continue.

I would really appreciate if you would be kind enough to share your own experiences with me if you went through the same journey. How did you manage the transition? How did you ensure success and sustainability? In hindsight, what would you have done differently?

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A fair price: A slightly damaged leg for a half marathon

A fair price: A slightly damaged leg for a half marathon

When I declared that I was intending to run a half marathon, many had doubts. Others decided to give me some benefit of the doubt and thought that I might be aiming for the stars, but I could reach the moon. A good enough achievement. I must confess that I had doubts too and that I used the opportunity very much like a carrot while continuing my training and weight loss program. Still, as time went by, the more determined I got to actually not just complete the task, but complete it well.

I’m not going to write about the whole program I followed and its various challenges over the last 11 months; that’ll happen in another post, suffice it to say that the genesis of the new me was at 5PM on the 9th of June 2013 in Vienna. That was the moment that I decided to change my life. At one of the lowest points in my life, I determined to be happier. And what I meant by that is better health, better relationships and better goals.

Almost a year hence, I’ve lost 33kgs, have begun to love exercise and have run the Athens Half Marathon and completed it in under 2.5 hours (2:26 to be exact), an improvement of 16 minutes on the best I’ve done while training in Bahrain. Good achievements by any standard I would think.

Mahmood running the Athens Half Marathon 2014 with Marsha Ralls

Alas, being new at this sport thing, I still don’t recognise the signals my body was giving me to take it easy. You see, directly after the marathon, I felt a pain in my right thigh and put that to the gruelling Athens course with its many extended inclines and declines. I brushed it off, and off I limped.

A couple of days later, an activity was arranged for us EOers to go on a guided scenic 5km run in Athens, and yes; of course I joined and ran! However, at the conclusion of that run, my body didn’t leave any subtle hints that I needed to slow down. It put the breaks on and my thigh was as tight as a drum. I simply couldn’t walk without a limp. I took a break and didn’t go on any more runs. The walking from the hotel to the various conference venues was enough to aggravate it. What it needed was some serious TLC. As my schedule was full, that was not forthcoming.

A few days later, I went on another trip, this time to the beautiful German city of Munich for another conference, one that I would speak at (a post will be coming soon). I couldn’t arrive in Munich for the first time and not explore! That, to me is an unforgivable sin. So off I limped to the Viktualienmarkt and the surrounding area. That was painful, but I persevered. The fortunate thing is that the excellent hosts of EO Germany booked me into the quaint Louis Hotel immediately opposite, so it wasn’t so onerous.

Apart from those short walks, I went to the adequate hotel gym and did some exercises, primarily on the bike as that seemed to be the only machine which didn’t tax my legs too much. Ignoring the pain, I continued to exercise every day. Once again, I should have stopped, but lacking the experience in sports injuries I continued in the program. I’m 52 and that was the very first sports injury I suffered! However, once I finished a one hour stint on the bike and went on the elliptical, my thigh finally has had enough. It put the breaks on, and did so rather hard. I could hardly breath, let alone move!

A while after I regained my breath, I borrowed one of the hotel’s umbrellas to use as a temporary crutch. Battling the pain, I managed to hobble to a specialist cane and umbrella shop nearby, unfortunately, they didn’t have a walking stick my size and the guy responsible for cutting them wasn’t available that day. I carried on with the umbrella for a while. A couple of days later, my friend and host Karl Funke insisted on gifting me a crutch he no longer had use for. Very generous indeed and highly appreciated. I cannot tell you how that helped me navigate my way through airports to get home, and am still using it.

Thanks to another good friend, Karla Solano, who urged me to see a physio therapist and put me in contact with ones she uses. I booked an appointment immediately and off I went to see them. My leg was thoroughly checked and their conclusion was that the muscles in my right thigh were completely exhausted; thus were in a complete tense state, rendering the leg useless. I could not walk nor put any weight on the thing. Being subjected to ultrasound and acupuncture therapies for just one session has improved it tremendously. I would say that the improvement I felt must have been close to 100%! I must say that going to the physio is a life changing experience.

I’m off again this afternoon for another session where I hope it will improve some more. It had better as I have to go on another production trip and the use of my legs would be much required!

 

 

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[Vlog] NY Winter – Fun at Bryant Park

[Vlog] NY Winter – Fun at Bryant Park

A friend suggested that I should go visit Bryant Park before I leave NY as they have an ice rink as well as an “even better holiday market” in her words when comparing what Bryant Park had to offer with that of Union Square. I enjoyed watching the ice skating and making this film. I must confess; however, that the market at Union Square is – to me – much better! Regardless, I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent at Bryant Park, having fun watching people having fun. Fantastic! Thanks Sarah! 😉

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[Vlog] WanneBe Dragon Monster

[Vlog] WanneBe Dragon Monster

One of the things I really love to do is go to various holiday and flea markets to while away the time, and get some inspiration as well sometimes. New York never disappoints in these areas, as you might expect.

I went to the Union Square market this morning and came across a nice little stall that sells special dragon monsters. Special because their background story is very nice and very inspirational too. Watch this video to discover more!

Please take the time to comment and give me feedback if you would. Oh, and go to http://facebook.com/MahmoodsDen and like it!

Many thanks and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

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Moscow, I love you!

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We‘re in Moscow at the moment on a production job. We made our way to Red Square and spent most of the day there. It is astounding to say the very least. Really enjoyed it, and we’re going back again tonight and probably tomorrow to get some pick-ups.

Let me share some of that with you:

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Off to KL

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It’s only a week since I came back to the island after an excellent and fruitful holiday. That holiday was followed by a hectic – but fortunately very fruitful – week spent in the office. Now, I’m off with my crew to Kuala Lumpur to cover another of the Power-Gen series of international power conferences and exhibitions. I promise you that an even more hectic work schedule will continue for the week where we’ll be producing three distinct corporate films, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the experience once again.

I hope that you too have had and shall continue to have fulfilling times my friends, in whatever endeavor you chose.

Until then, expect some pictures from KL!

Cheers!

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Road trip to Sombrio Beach

Road trip to Sombrio Beach

We love going on road trips while in Canada, or almost anywhere where a road trip can take more than 30 minutes without spanning the whole country 🙂

We decided to go check out a recommended beach on Vancouver Island called Sombrio Beach, about two and a half hours outside of Victoria and we stopped at this location just outside Sooke for a quick bite. The seagulls decided to be our lunch companions so we obliged 🙂

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M.Report: Photography Masterclass in NY

M.Report: Photography Masterclass in NY

Looking out of the apartment’s window after Hurricane Irene had passed, I noticed a group of people with a lot of tripods and some photography equipment. That piqued my interest and I thought I’d go and investigate (aka, poke my nose in!) – I’m glad I did! I met the renowned photographer Bryan Peterson (http://ppsop.com) who was teaching photography techniques.

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Shanghai and Small Mercies

The Bund, Shanghai

Just arrived in Shanghai this afternoon and checked in to a lovely hotel on the The Bund and overlooking the Huangpu river. You see the view from my room above. Quite nice.

First impressions of Shanghai is nothing short of “wow” mixed in with “oh shit!” and an occasional “daaaaamn!”. Let me explain:

From the air, the city looks very modern as evidenced by the factories, parcels of land, channels, and other man made structures. Tidy, clean, modern and spiffy. This is further strengthened when you land in their airport – which must be one of the quietest in the world, and certainly one of the best organised. We were off the airplane, through a very orderly immigration line and onward to collect the bags without a hitch whatsoever. I was worried that my luggage will be lost as my connection in Doha was a mere 40 minutes, but Qatar Airways came through again, and the flight was quite pleasant. Bags of space, but the food, unfortunately, was terrible. Can’t complain too much though, I’ve had a solid 7 – 8 hours of sleep!

Back to China. I’m here as part of a delegation from the EO Bahrain chapter for a Global Leadership Conference. I’ve arrived a day early but fortunately an EO colleague and friend, Faisal Alireza, was on the plane with me. He had the foresight to book a car to take him to the hotel and offered me a ride, which was very kind, but my much anticipated MagLev experience will have to wait for a few days. Off we went in a latest model Merc limo, which was the cause of the “oh shit!” experience.

The roads from the airport are modern, wide, well routed with nary a bloody roundabout or traffic light in sight. You would think that one would generally put the foot down and compete with the 8-minute-431kph-ride of the MagLev to town. But, human nature comes between that ideal and reality. The driver was amicable enough, but boy he must’ve been completely understanding of Schumi “nudging” Villeneuve in that Australian F1 race to get his racing line! And he’s not alone! Drivers here across the board – yes, I’m generalising – are bonking mad! Their over-riding mantra seems to be I’m in a hurry and to hell with everyone else. They’re driving ultra-expensive cars haphazardly and if they don’t see gaps to squeeze their cars into, go ahead and create the blasted things! They do signal though, and as everyone knows, if one does signal, then one DOES have the right of way! Does that remind you of Bahrain? Of course it does, but to be completely fair, I suggest that we’re a few notches better than the drivers here. Drivers in Shanghai take a gap as a challenge: if you don’t take it then you’re a pussy.

We arrived at the hotel. Absolute luxury that would put the Ritz in Bahrain and other luxury hotels in the Gulf to shame. Half the staff seem to be waiting outside to welcome guests – with smiles! – unbelievable! Get into the lobby to be once again received with smiles and clear professionalism. The check-in process took under five minutes and up to the room I went to be greeted with the view you see above. Not bad.

I was looking forward to check in with the office, pay attention to the email, and the usual haunts before I hit the shower, so out comes the laptop and connected to the wireless Internet without a hitch. The price per day is reasonable enough and the happy thing about it is that it is FAST! Unfortunately, I discovered soon enough that that speed is a trade-off. My usual haunts of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube amongst probably other social media networks is blocked! Damn and double damn.

Might as well get the chisel and tablet out for the duration then, speed or no speed… the Internet here is severely crippled. Thank “godness” that we haven’t reached that stage back home yet.

Small mercies I guess…

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