“Arab Life through the Lens”


Far from just a medium for documentation, photography is a powerful tool in spreading cross-cultural understanding. Photographs can transport viewers to unfamiliar places, introducing them to new people, places, and ideas.  

Over the course of her 40+ year career, American photographer Wendy Ewald has captured communities around the globe, from Morocco to New York. Exploring diverse societies and identities, Ewald’s work generates dialogue about our cultural differences and similarities. QAIC recently sat down with Ewald in the webinar “Arab Life through the Lens” to discuss her photographic process, journeys across the MENA region, and recent projects. 

Ewald has adopted a unique collaborative process in which she works with her subjects to add marks, text, and drawings on the photographs she captures of them. During her travels across Morocco and Saudi Arabia, Ewald took photographs of local girls and women, who then illustrated the negatives. These photographs challenge the centrality of authorship and attribution, as Ewald shares ownership of this work with her subjects, and reflect the perspective of each individual.  

Ewald’s time in the Middle East inspired her more recent Arabic Alphabets project, in which she collaborated with Arab communities in the New York to highlight the influence of the Arabic language and the presence of immigrant populations in the US. “[Photography] in different cultures has always fascinated me,” said Ewald on the inspiration behind her past and present work with people of all cultural backgrounds.  

This webinar was part of QAIC’s Expressions Art & Culture Talks series, which provides a platform for creatives from the US, Qatar, and broader Arab and Islamic worlds to share their insight on a variety of topics. Previous topics include calligraphy, architecture, and film. To view past episodes, visit QAIC’s YouTube channel here