Using the classic street style photography conventions of the straight-up portrait, and multiple close-up shots of the details and specificities of each subject’s personal style, Aparna Jayakumar and new collaborator on this project, photographer and filmmaker Shaima Al-Tamimi, create a rich visual record of the beautiful individuality within often-under-represented communities in Qatar, found on Instagram, Doha Fashion Fridays. Tasweer is honored to stage this exhibition and give a new cultural platform to this historic visual account of life in contemporary Qatar and to its stylish participants. This exhibition is the start of a working relationship between Tasweer and Doha Fashion Fridays that will build into the launch of an internationally available Doha Fashion Fridays book at Tasweer’s next biennial programme in 2025. During Tasweer 2023, there will be many opportunities for local photographers to meet with the Doha Fashion Fridays and Tasweer teams to find out about how to participate in the expansive next phase of this important project.
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Doha Fashion Fridays is a unique collaborative project, initiated in 2017 by artists Khalid Albaih and Aparna Jayakumar, in which migrant workers living in Qatar are photographed and interviewed on Fridays, their day of rest. Using fashion as a lens and Instagram as its public platform, the project’s hundreds of images and interviews tell narratives about the diverse migrant population, who have come to Qatar with dreams and aspirations.
Images: Aparna Jayakumar, founding photographer of Doha Fashion Fridays
Aparna Jayakumar is an Indian photographer who is internationally-recognized for her multivalent photographic practice that straddles her art practice, editorial storytelling and commercial image-making. Jayakumar studied photography, film and art history in India and Greece. Since the 2000s, she has been an esteemed stills photographer on Bollywood film sets, also creating visual campaigns for India’s most successful cultural exports. Jayakumar’s independent photography projects narrate human stories that range from the business of arranged marriages in her home town of Calicut in Kerala; an ode to the almost-extinct black and yellow Padmini taxi that populated Mumbai since the mid. 1960s and was taken out of production in 2021; through to her touching ode to the retro style and languorous attitude of middle class Calcutta businessmen, who pause for Jayakumar and her camera on their way to and from work. Jayakumar is also a skilled educator and has initiated community outreach programs using photography wherever she has lived, including in Qatar. In 2017, she began her collaboration with Khalid Albaih, photographing and interviewing migrant workers about their fashion style, and forming Doha Fashion Fridays.
Khalid AlBaih is one of the most influential Arab Cartoonists, who first came to prominence during the Arab Spring across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s. He is a Sudanese artist who was born in Bucharest, Romania and has lived in Qatar since the 1990s. In both his writing and his prolific political cartoon practice, Albaih prompts conversations and calls for attention to be paid to the shared challenges of immigration, race, power, conflict and identity. He is published widely in international publications including The Atlantic, PRI, and NPR, in addition to his written social and political commentary in publications such as The Guardian and Al Jazeera. He was awarded the New York Freedom Artists Residency by Artists at Risk Connection in 2019. In the same year, Albaih co-edited the illustrated book, Sudan Retold that presents artistic renderings of the history of Sudan by 30 Sudanese artists. As part of the historic The Walls Have Ears exhibition, Albaih created a sound installation of the stories of asylum seekers in Denmark, emanating from hidden speakers placed along a public underpass as part of documenta fifteen in Kasel, Germany in 2022.
Shaima Al-Tamimi is a Yemeni-East African visual storyteller based in Qatar. Her work is an inspirational melding of her and her family’s story and the social and cultural issues it reflects. She explores themes relating to patterns and impacts of migration and identity. Through the mediums of photography, film, and writing, Al-Tamimi interweaves historical and family archives with her photographic portraits, and builds upon her deeply-rooted and highly-personal documentary approach in new and unexpected ways. She is currently a fellow at the Royal Society of Arts, London, United Kingdom.
In 2020, she was awarded a Photography and Social Justice Fellowship by the Magnum Foundation, where she developed her multimedia project and film Don’t Get Too Comfortable. In 2021, it was nominated for the Orrizonti Award for Best Short film at the 78th Venice International Film Festival (La Biennale) and was the first Yemeni film to have participated at Venice to date. Don’t Get Too Comfortable is an expansion of her long-term project As if we never came, which is currently on show at Mathaf in partnership with Tasweer Photo Festival Qatar, who awarded Al-Tamimi a 2021 Sheikh Saoud Al Thani Project Award grant. Her project has also been supported by the Arab Documentary Photography Program and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and received additional support from Women Photograph + Nikon USA, and the Prince Claus Fund.
“ Let’s meet these people, let’s see what they think. It’s about them showing themselves the way they want to be shown. “