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.