Manar, a 20-year-old artist from Saudi Arabia that is currently based in Canada, she expresses herself through photography, zine making and experimental projects. Manar tells us more about her artistic process and why she decided to use film photography for her latest project ‘Lucid Dreaming.’
Tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in 1996 and raised in the city of Khobar, and I’m currently residing in Canada where I study political science. I’m an avid daydreamer that enjoys zine-making for its physicality and the freedom it offers when it comes to mediums.
When did you start photography and what inspired you?
I started photography a year ago when I noticed how every candid and beautiful moment vanished after 24 hours (@ snapchat). I wanted to document my life in Canada. Being in a new place surrounded by new people inspired me, along with my desire to tell stories visually and to try different art forms.
You currently live in Canada, but your work is often of Saudi, do you see Saudi with a new set of eyes every time you visit? If so, why do you think that is?
Definitely! I have been away for a year and a half, which allowed me to start seeing beauty in the everyday. I showed my friend photographs I’ve shot so far and she asked, “How are you making Saudi look so beautiful???” Our desire for systematic change made us bitter towards the land itself; we don’t take time to observe and appreciate our surroundings. Coming back during winter is also a plus, no doubt.
There seems to be this idea that women just cannot go out in Saudi, yet we are seeing a lot of female photographers in particular shooting street life and the everyday. What are your thoughts on this and how do you as a woman navigate spaces through your photography?
Saudi Arabia is more diverse than people think. Not only are the provinces different regarding the level of conservativeness, but households within the same city differ as well. What I and other women can do, others can’t, and vice versa. Some photos in my Saudi Diaries series are shot while walking to places due to the lack of driver/public transportation/right to drive. However, these inconveniences made the streets a more interesting subject, but unfortunately navigating spaces as a woman is limited.
What attracted you to film photography?
The process of film photography is what I like the most. The fact that you can’t see what you shot right away makes it more perfected and exciting. There is great joy in looking through the photos after they’ve been processed.
Everyone has turned digital, yet we seem to be seeing a lot of artists turn to film again. I even noticed in one of your projects you used expired film. Tell me more about your thought process using film photography compared to your usual method of drawing.
To be honest, using expired film was the result of me not finding a place that still sells film in Khobar, so I took it as a chance to experiment. The photos turned out extra dreamy, which inspired me to make the zine I’m currently working on, Lucid Dreaming. To me, drawing is dependent on my state of mind, but thankfully, photography satisfies my creative self whenever.
The title “Lucid Dreaming” comes from not only the dreaminess of the photographs I shot on expired film, but also the state I am in while being back in Saudi Arabia. I am well aware that I am loving an altered idea of home due to homesickness. Truth is, this is just a dream that I will awake from soon.
I am loving your mixed media zines, you use various materials too, tell me more about the process of making your zines.
I used to make one-page foldy zines in high school that were solely for myself. I had a series called Notes to Self that tackled subjects such as finding one’s self and mental health. They consisted of collages, line drawings, and words. From there, my love for putting something together grew. I now make art or take photos first and later find a reoccurring theme that I can create a zine out of. I like to thrift National Geographic magazines – they have the best content for collaging. Another thing that is becoming my hobby is cutting out words or phrases from different articles and making a story, poem, or thought out of them.
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