Khalifa Ahmad Al Obaidly is the Managing Director of Tasweer Photo Festival Qatar, a platform for the personal and professional creative growth of photographers and image-makers in the region. Established in 2021 by Qatar Museums, this annual event now in its second year is building on Qatar Museum’s commitment to nurture artistic talent, and to develop Qatar's arts economy and support the creative industry.
As an acclaimed photographer himself, Al Obaidly feels strongly about promoting and encouraging young creatives to nurture their talent and understands the struggles they face in order to reach their goals. His team is working hard to successfully grow this local platform and support Qatar’s cultural landscape.
We recently spoke to him about the second Tasweer biennial where he gave us an insight into the exciting line-up of events. We also discussed the positive impact of Tasweer on young creatives and he shared the exciting future plans they have in place to further build Tasweer.
Saira Malik (S.M.): Why was the Tasweer Photo Festival created and what is the main purpose of it?
Khalifa Ahmad Al Obaidly (K.A.O.): The Tasweer Photo Festival was created to celebrate the art of photography and bring together local and international photographers to showcase their work in Qatar. The main purpose of the festival is to promote visual storytelling through photography and create a platform for discussion and exchange of ideas among photographers, artists, and the wider community.
(S.M.): What is the importance of photography to the local society?
(K.A.O.): The current Qatari and regional photography community is growing and diverse. Tasweer Photo Festival was created to promote photography in Qatar and the region, seeing how photography is important to the local society as it captures and preserves moments and memories. The festival has had a positive impact on the community, providing a platform for photographers to showcase their work and fostering appreciation for photography.
(S.M.): As the second Tasweer biennial is returning, what would you say the impact of the award and the festival as a whole has been on the community?
(K.A.O.): The Tasweer Photo Festival has had a significant impact on the community by raising awareness about the importance of photography as an art form and providing a platform for local and international photographers to showcase their work. The festival has also contributed to the cultural and artistic development of Qatar by promoting artistic expression and encouraging creativity.
(S.M.): How would you describe the current Qatari and the regional photography community?
(K.A.O.): The Qatari and regional photography community is quite active and growing, with numerous exhibitions, workshops, and events taking place regularly. Tasweer has played an important role in fostering this community through its exhibitions and biennials, which have featured works by both established and emerging photographers. Some of the exhibitions hosted by Tasweer in the past include "Doha Fashion Fridays" by Khalid Albaih and Aparna Jayakumar, "A Chance To Breathe" by Azimul Hasson, Dil Kayas, and Omal Khair, “And Thereafter” by Qatar-resident artist Hadeer Omar, “My Mother Lulwa's House” by Qatari artist Mashael Al Hejazi, and "I Am The Traveler And Also The Road”, featuring new work by twelve recipients of Tasweer’s annual grant award. These exhibitions have not only showcased the diversity of photographic practices in the region but have also stimulated discussions around social and political issues. Overall, Tasweer has had a positive impact on the community, by providing a platform for photographers to showcase their work, engage in conversations, and exchange ideas. Through its workshops and mentorship programs, it has also helped to nurture and develop emerging talent, contributing to the growth of the photography scene in the region.
(S.M.): In your opinion, what more can be done to develop and nurture visual storytellers, especially photographers?
(K.A.O.): To develop and nurture visual storytellers, especially photographers, more opportunities should be provided for training and education in photography. This can include workshops, mentorship programs, and scholarships for aspiring photographers. Additionally, more platforms should be created for photographers to showcase their work and connect with other photographers and artists.
(S.M.): What advice would you give to young photographers who are considering developing in the field?
(K.A.O.): I recommend young photographers to focus on developing their own style and vision. This can be achieved through practice, experimentation, and studying the work of other photographers. It's important for young artists and photographers to focus on how subjects have a connection with their identity, where they live, how to present it, and treat it through their vision. It is also important to build a strong network of contacts and to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the field.
(S.M.): What can the audience look forward to this year at the Tasweer Photo Festival?
(K.A.O.): Tasweer 2023, Qatar's International Photography Festival, opened with five major exhibitions that showcased the diverse range of photography on display throughout the festival:
- Doha Fashion Fridays showcased the work of emerging and established photographers who captured the latest trends and designs in the fashion industry.
- A Chance to Breathe explored the impact of pollution and climate change on our environment through a variety of photographic works.
- Hadeer Omar: And Thereafter used photography to explore the relationship between memory and time.
- Mashael Al Hejazi: My Mother Lulwa's House documented the artist's childhood home and memories associated with it to evoke personal and collective memories.
- I Am The Traveler And Also The Road featured photographic works that explored the theme of travel and the journey from different perspectives.
In addition to the five major exhibitions, Tasweer 2023 also featured a number of solo and group shows that explored a variety of themes and topics. The festival showcased a wide range of photographic styles and approaches, including documentary, photojournalism, fine art, and conceptual photography. With workshops, masterclasses, talks, and panel discussions, Tasweer 2023 provided a unique opportunity for emerging photographers to develop their skills and gain exposure, while engaging with a wider audience interested in visual storytelling.
(S.M.): Lastly, can you tell us about any of the exciting future plans for the Tasweer Photo Festival?
(K.A.O.): The Tasweer Photo Festival has exciting plans for the future, including expanding its program to include more exhibitions, workshops, and events. The festival aims to become a leading platform for photography in the region, promoting cultural exchange and artistic collaboration between local and international photographers.
For more information, visit tasweer.org.qa
– Saira Malik
Images courtesy of Tasweer Photo Festival