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Safouh AlNaamani: Preserving Time

This exhibition is a collaboration between Misk Art Institute and Red Sea Film Festival

A historical journey of the photographic works of the artist Safouh AlNaamani during his past documentation discoveries of moments around Saudi during the mid-twentieth century. While time passes and runs towards a realm of reflection and historical awareness, the collection of works displayed enables the viewer to transform their perspective on the past—understanding the transient nature of life and the artist's desire to preserve time. This exclusive collection of photographs and recently restored film "Pilgrimage to Makkah" a restored film by the Red Sea Film Festival, reveal AlNaamani's true sentiments towards history through the lens of transformative moments in the two cities of Jeddah and Makkah and center around his careful compositions of landmarks, reminding the viewer of their history and significance. Through the nineteen fifties and sixties, AlNaamani quietly examined and captured moments that would retrospectively come to be some of the most substantial contributions to the visual documentation of Saudi Arabia's history.

3rd Dec. - 10th Jan.


My Photography Journey

by Safouh AlNaamani

It all started as a hobby in 1941 in Beirut, Lebanon. I was 15 years old when I dove into this hobby with the help from a professional photographer. After World War II ended, I turned to books and specialized magazines for more information, developing skills that would eventually impress the people around me.

In 1948, an editor and friend of mine asked for my help with taking photos around Beirut. It was a complicated but successful tour. The next thing I knew, my first project in photojournalism “Beirut at Night” was published. My original goal was to go into film production and eventually that opportunity arose in Beirut in 1950 where I joined the production crew for the film Beirut Bride. Due to my familiarity with electronics, I was given the role of sound mixer. This work required experience; and thus, it occurred to me that the road to film production is long and tiresome.

On March 6th, 1951 corresponding to 27/5/1370 Hijri, I headed to Jeddah to become a professional photographer and welcome clients to Studio Safouh. After some time, I was requested by the Public Security Director to prepare a small film laboratory at the identification department to train employees in the process of developing film for the Makkah city police. That was my first commercial work, as well as the first film laboratory at the Ministry of Interior.

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As Hajj season approached for the year 1953 - 1373 Hijri, I was blessed to receive verbal approval to exclusively photograph His Highness Prince Abdullah Al Faisal, the minister of interior at that time. I took the first ever colored images around The Holy City of Makkah and the Holy Mosque. I also shot my first film about Hajj, which featured many important figures --both Saudi and foreigners, who were attending to complete their pilgrimage. However, that film was never finished.

My dream came true in the year 1963 - 1382 Hijri, when an official approval was granted allowing me to produce a documentary film about the Hajj season. I started the season with high expectations and standards to create work on an intentional level; I was fortunate enough to receive help from different establishments. After approximately nine months, I concluded developing the film in San Francisco, California. In the year 1964 - 1383 Hijri, my film The Pilgrimage to Makkah was screened in both Arabic and English. I am thankful that it was acknowledged both locally and internationally, attaining recognition not only from Muslims, but from non-Muslims as well.

Following the release of the film, I was given the opportunity to join many projects documenting important local events and official visits outside of the Kingdom with His Highness King Faisal Al Saud. To this day, I continue to take photographs both commercially and as a hobby. Nowadays, my son, Omar, has taken over this difficult but fulfilling work.

I am now a part of the history of this great country,

Safouh Izzat AlNaamani

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