Seven Top Arab Photographers Capturing the Current Situation in the Region

1. Fadia Ahmad (Lebanon, b.1975):



Born in Alicante, Spain to Lebanese parents, Ahmad is a contemporary Lebanese photographer who uses her practice to make the unseen, seen. Her practice focuses largely on creating narratives through image-making, that force the viewer to rethink their own beliefs and positionality. Ahmad’s photographs transmit the expression of a Lebanese art photographer, one that is sensitive and precise, poetic and humanist. She finds value in even the most quotidian places, looking for ways to break down barriers of vulnerability and alienation. In her recent groundbreaking project, ‘Beyrouth/Beirut’, she traces a daily itinerary of 10,452 steps across the capital city, capturing nostalgic architecture, complex urban scenes, and a few individuals who were fixtures of her walks. This project exemplifies Ahmad’s unquenchable interest in and connection to her homeland, particularly in the patch-work demographics of Beirut, and, more broadly, her desire to address ongoing changes in the fabric of the city over the last decade.


2. Boushra Almutawakel (Yemen, b.1969):



A pioneering figure, Almutawakel is the first recognized female photographer from Yemen. Her bold images are inspired by a strict religious upbringing, that has developed in an interest in the perception of Arabs and Muslims in the world. She also tackles issues of gender and stereotyping. The veil is central to her series “Hijab Series” which not only explores how the veil is worn, but also how it impacts identity. Her photographs have been labeled controversial by many but have also provided a platform of representation for many women who wear the hijab.


3. Youssef Nabil (Egyptian, b. 1972)



Born in Cairo, Nabil started his career by staging and photographing tableaux recalling film stills from the golden age of Egyptian cinema. Later, he began photographing artists and friends in New York, oscillating between candid shots and more formal portraits. Upon returning to Egypt, he transitioned to hand-painted portraits of celebrities and famous creatives in the Arab world, retaining his attraction towards the variety and potential in human expression. Perhaps the most moving iteration of the portraiture theme in his work are his self-portraits, intimate and touching pieces that provoke a sense of loneliness, and self-awareness. His hand-painting technique is highly distinctive and imbues the photographs with a sense of nostalgia and atemporality. He was inspired partly by the tradition of color-tinting used by old Egyptian portrait studios.


4. Nadim Asfar (Lebanon, b. 1976)



Currently based in Paris and Beirut, Asfar focuses primarily on questions of language and technique within the medium. His works explore intimacy, particularly in relation to space and time, drawing on acoustic, poetic, aesthetic, philosophical, anthropological, and geographical perspectives. Asfar’s projects crossover between analog and digital, allowing for greater flexibility of technical form and expression. His body of work can be read as attempts to marry systems of language and image-making, while creating unique means of framing the world. His most popular project, ‘Constellations’, was published in 2018. Each piece is a grid of pictures Asfar shot from his balcony in Beirut, emphasizing the repetition of daily gestures and urban patterns.


5. Mohamad Abusal (Palestine, b. 1976):



Born in Gaza, Abusal transitioned from finance and management to visuals arts back in 2000. He refined his skills at workshops and through independent research, to become one of Palestine’s most promising talents. His multi-media projects question the impact of technology and permissible boundaries. He often merges with fantastical and quotidian concepts to create a critical commentary on life in Gaza. His series ‘Shambar’ from 2013 reveals the alternative ways the local population illuminates their homes and shops during the frequent blackouts, be in candlelight, generators, or holiday decorations.


6. Noel Jabbour (Palestine, b. 1970)



From Nazareth, but based in Berlin, Jabbour is a trained photographer whose poignant images have garnered attention over the years. Her work sheds light on underrepresented and unusual subjects. She shows a particular skill in photographing individual and collective human expression. One of her projects from 2000 to 2001, entitled ‘Vacant Seats’ is an intimate, only slightly staged series that depicts the grief of Palestinian families. Families gather around the photographs and items of loved ones who were killed. From these raw, personal stories, Jabbour is able to create resonant and deeply moving images.


7. Lamya Gargash (United Arab Emirates, b.1982):



Based in Dubai, Gargash examines Emirati society, taking a closer look at cultural traditions through abandoned architecture. The rapid growth in the UAE and the effect it had on regional cultural identity, is one of the main topics Gargash pursues. This is evident in her series “Presence” which depicts empty and out-of-date décor in homes that were built during the economic boom 30 years before, emphasizing the loss of culture and the question of conformity consumerism. In all of her work, material fixtures and sensorial experience influence the meaning behind the image.