Abbas at the National Museum of Singapore

The other day I visited the Abbas exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore, which runs through the 18th September. This is a fairly large show covers the 45 year span of the Iranian photographer's career. It includes his earliest photographs from various warzones and area of unrest in the late 1960's and early 1970's, of which this remarkable photograph from Northern Ireland forms a part. My wife, looking at this photo remarked how lucky Abbas was to get this shot. “Well, that's a big part of it,” I admitted, “being in the wrong place at the right time.”

A wall crumbles, after a presumed act of arson by the Irish Republican Army. Belfast, United Kingdom, 1972. 

Peppered throughout the exhibition were a few audio slideshows taken from Magnum in Motion, the most successful of which was the piece on Muhammed Ali and George Foreman's Rumble in the Jungle boxing match.

The majority of the exhibit, however, is given over to his work from around the globe focusing on various different expressions of religious practices, which are shown here in great variety. In fact, I was impressed at how wide ranging the scenes depicted were given the incredibly broad overarching themes. Couple this with his newsworthy photographs from the Iranian revolution of the late 1970's (which are juxtaposed here with more his recent images from Iran), a behind the scenes look at western high fashion and some personal shots of his family and you get taken on a a surprisingly coherent and revealing journey.

Cricket in a Buddhist monastery, Dodanduwa, Sri Lanka, 2009.

I am familiar with some of Abbas' more famous shots, but aside from his work on the Muslim faith I had not realised he had explored religion so extensively. One thing that struck me was how personal it all felt. The different expressions of faith here all seemed connected to each other, to make sense, as if they are all different facets of the same thing (which of course they are).

I got the sense that Abbas photographs because he is curious, because he wants to learn and explore and in presenting the work together in this exhibit he is asking us to just look, be open minded and curious ourselves. After all, it is these traits that lead to our systems of belief in the first place. That much at least we have in common.

The Belfast Photography Festival

The Belfast Photography Festival launches on the 4th August.  Well worth a look if you're in the area, or happen to have the time to make it over to Ireland.  I wish I could make it over myself. Maybe next year...

Amira Al-Sharif in Yemen

Amira Al-Sharif, a Yemeni photographer whom it was my great pleasure to have as a student last year has sent me a few photographs and some words from the past week.  She has just embarked on a project that will take her all around Yemen during this important time in the country's history.  I confess I know very little of Yemen, but through my friendship with Amira I am learning.  As a student she was extremely dedicated, intelligent, talented and polite.  Now it is I who am the student, and she is teaching me.

"I started my first photography trip to Al-Hoedidah to Bait Al-Fageh, Al-Abasi village where they grew Arabian Jasmine and it has the largest market for exporting the Arabian Jasmine all around Yemen as well as to Sudia Arabia. The way to Al-Abasi village take about 7 hours, but it takes us 12 hours because of the heavy transportation and there were tracks accident that blocked the road, so we left the bus and we kept walking under the hot sun for two hours till we pass the place of the tracks accidents, but still the way is blocked as the accident was two days ago and we still waiting for four hours till the road get opened, roads in Yemen are not that organized and there is no rules for driving, luckily we get in one of the tracks to continue our trip. We left home by 6 A.M. to arrive to the village by 6 P.M. after long day of transferring from one car to another as gas is so expensive nowadays because of the revolution and expenses are so high. 

Situation in Yemen getting worst and worst, poverty, sickness, pollution, people just angry, sad. Fighting all along on houses, streets, buses, and all over places between those who like the president or the other part who dislike him. Those people who is with the president their justifications that the time the president they were not feeling afraid as now because of feeling unsave and expecting war every moment and wasn’t able to sleep of being afraid.

All restrictions of preventing photography I decided to do my photography inside houses where I can be with people who trust me and I will not be forced to stop my career and will not put my self in danger, so I am more concern to document lives inside houses and will be outside the time it is safe and will keep recording every thing I see and hear.

 Right now I will be working for my contract with the Ministry of Tourism to bring beautiful photos about Yemen, sadly the situation doesn’t show any tourism photos with all the latest changes and deteriorating economics, and I just realized how it is hard to search the beautiful view within all this new situation.

Sadly just the day before we arrived to the village my friend’s Mahmoud grandmother died, so I wake up in the morning by 3 o’clock to photograph women making bread to take it to the graveyard, and the way to the yard they are going to give every person they meet some bread and dates. There is the marching with the light in the girls hands. Then we arrived to the graveyard and I photographed them reading Wholy Quran and spreading some water in the graveyards by 5 A.M. 

I stayed in the village for 4 days just to keep listening to NO NO every time I start shooting even if it is nothing, the situation it is only because there is no photography education. "