- Special Pages
By Raynald C Rivera
With the advent of new technology, people who take to photography have been aplenty in Qatar, but only a few have the courage to take it seriously as a profession.
Getting around the city during weekends, it is but common to see many people armed with cameras taking snapshots of Doha’s impressive natural and man-made tourist spots. It is also not unusual to find people who have formed groups to foster their common interest in photography as a pastime.
“Qatar is one of the few Arab countries where there are lots of people who venture into photography because they can afford to buy the most sophisticated types of cameras. But they do it as a hobby; they are scared to take it as a profession,” Maher Attar, one of the most popular photographers in the country, told The Peninsula.
After more than two decades of experience with international photo agencies, Attar currently holds the positions of director of the photo library in the office of H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and consultant to Qatar Museums Authority.
With sophisticated gadgets such as smartphones that make it possible to easily capture images anytime anywhere, everybody thinks anyone can be a photographer nowadays.
“But not everyone can be a photographer,” Attar says, adding that it requires passion and attention to photography as an art form for one to be considered a real photographer.
And he showcases the essence of the art of photography in his latest solo exhibition, which recently opened at the Anima Gallery.
Titled ‘A still on a land in motion’, the expo features 21 photos, all taken by Attar using lomography camera, quite a departure from what he got used to in several decades being a professional photographer.
“Lomography concept is something completely different. Under this concept, you work with a very basic camera, with plastic lens, with expired film, one speed, with all the faults and lack of control. If you lose a shot, it’s over.”
But with the big challenge that comes with lomography results beautiful images which are a combination of old fashion photography and new technology. The limited edition images look like magnificent works of art preserved on a high quality paper which can last for a long time.
The photo expo provides the public a glimpse to an ongoing project that Attar started six years ago, which will eventually be turned into a book. The photos showcase the Qatari culture the country enjoys amid progress, as seen by the photographer.
“I don’t call myself a photographer but simply a witness recording important moments in my own way.”
With a great passion for photography, Attar has taken thousands of images, of the glamorous world of celebrities as well as the dreadful face of war.
Through his solo show, Attar wishes to redirect people’s attention to photography as art.
“You have the right to do your own photography as you like, using smartphone or lomography camera, but please give importance to the art of photography, especially in our region, where photography is not a well-respected job.”
Unlike professions like those of doctors and engineers, the job of a photographer, according to Attar, is not seen as a profession, “because people think anyone can take up photography as a hobby.”
“In every event or occasion, when people see a photographer, they jump on him because they want to be included in the documentation of the event, making the role of the photographer as a very important one; but in reality the photographer’s job is not well-respected.”
“But for me, photography is more than a profession, it’s an art. It is a means to record significant moments in my own way for people to see.”
On how he sees photography as an art developing in the country: “Qatar is a country which encourages photography because of the many events happening here, but it would take time for many people to reach the level when they recognize the importance of photography as art.”
With over 30 years of experience as a professional photographer, Maher Attar is also founder of Art & Privilége publishing company, through which he has published a number of books, including on Qatar namely ‘Souk Wakif’ in 2006 and ‘DOHArama’ in 2010.
‘A still on a land in motion’ is open to the public at Anima Gallery until May 28. The limited edition photos are for sale.