The Meeting Place – Portfolio Review at FotoFest Biennial

SHAWEESH PHOTOGRAPHS the photographers AT JAMES TURRELL EXHIBITION, MUSEUM OF FINE ART, HOUSTON

Fotofest founder, Wendy Watriss discussing ‘Documenting the Undocumented’ with Huda Beydoun

HUDA BEYDOUN TALKS ABOUT HER WORK, ‘Documenting the Undocumented’ at the MUSEUM OF FINE ART, HOUSTON

Stephen Stapleton discussing Ajlan Gharem’s ‘Mercy’ portfolio before his review

Nouf AlHimiary discussing her series ‘What She Wore’ with Fotofest founder, Wendy Watriss

Shaweesh discusses his work ‘Captain America’ with industry expert

SHAWEESH has his portrait taken as part FOTOFEST Meeting Place Archive

Mohammed Sharaf discussing his work with Fotofest founder and director

Courtesy of Anna Veselova and FotoFest

Mohammed Sharaf looking at work by Huda Beydoun

03 Apr 2014 - 29 Mar 2014
Houston, TEXAS, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Houston Downtown

Artists Nouf Alhimiary, Abdullah Al-Shehri, Huda Beydoun, Ajlan Gharem, and Mohammed Sharaf, were invited by Edge Of Arabia and Art Jameel, with additional support from Tamer Group, to participate in the FotoFest Biennale’s internationally recognized portfolio review program, The Meeting Place. They took part in four days of workshops with international curators and art professionals to network and present photography based projects developed in their communities.

OUTCOMES & EVALUATION

  • Artists met with a minimum of 16 reviewers each over a 4-day period. The reviewers included gallery owners, photographers, museum directors, with knowledge and experience in the industry in the USA. Represented institutions included: Houston Center for Photography, Baltimore Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, SocialDocumentary.com, Photomuseum Braunschweig, AnzenbergerGallery, Anzenberger Agency, Fotografie Forum Frankfurt.
  • The artists also had a dedicated review session with Wendy Watriss, Founder of FotoFest, and Steve Evans, the newly appointed director of FotoFest. The 2- hour session consisted of each of the artists speaking directly about their background and work experience, followed by a showcase of each of their portfolios to Wendy and Steve. Topics discussed included: Specific technical feedback on photography printing and production; analogue vs. digital photography; artists’ representation through galleries vs. freelance photography; how to price art work to increase likelihood of entering into international museums and art centers; the importance of contracts and agreements to protect artists, galleries and arts organizations; How to identify educational opportunities in the Gulf and internationally to develop and improve skills.
  • For most of the reviewers and international artists, this was their first encounter with Middle Eastern artists. The Edge of Arabia artists’ opened a window into their cultural and artistic practice and created personal and professional connections with individuals and institutions from the USA and Europe.
  • The artists were among the youngest (in terms of career development and number of years working in the field) participating in the portfolio review, but also among the more advanced in terms of representation and sales.
  • Artists received constructive feedback on their art practice, including existing work and how to develop and conceptualize new projects.
  • Artists received objective and constructive feedback from reviewers and other artists on how to develop their careers long term, discussing a range of subject matters from which higher education degree to pursue to contract agreements with galleries.
  • Some of the artists got recommendations on fine art and photography programs in the USA and Europe as well as exhibition opportunities internationally.

"This is the first time I presented a full body of work and the feedback I have received from the reviewers has been invaluable. I have had the opportunity to widen my horizons through networking with other international artists." Ajlan Gharem


"Documenting the Undocumented is my first photo-based project and it has been both challenging and rewarding to discuss my work with an international audience in this context." Huda Beydoun
 

"This is the first time I have ever had to speak publicly about my work and I have discovered many layers through feedback from international curators, artists and professionals." Nouf AlHimiary

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS:

Nouf Alhimiary: A photographer based in Jeddah, Nouf Alhimiary is currently completing her studies in English Literature at Effat University. Her work explores women’s lives in a style that merges documentary and conceptual approaches. Exhibitions include the Islamic Art Festival, Sharjah Art Museum 2014; Rhizoma, 55th Venice Biennale in 2013; Mostly Visible, Jeddah Art Week, 2013; Hajj: A Journey to the Heart of Islam, British Museum’s Addis Gallery, 2012. Dispelling stereotypical depictions concerning the position of women in contemporary Saudi society is an on-going concern amongst the works of several female artists within the exhibition. In What She Wore (2013) a photographic blog consisting of a collection of photos of young Saudi women wearing abayas, artist Alhimiary spoofs the popular fashion blogging trend to reveal young Saudi women within various cities and settings – each dressed in a standard black abaya – offering both incongruous and banal images.

Shaweesh (Abdullah Al-Shehri): Shaweesh, a Saudi performance and street artist based in Riyadh, began working with graffiti in 2009. He expanded his practice to include digital and typographic art, as well as hand painted photo etchings that incorporate both US pop culture and classic Arabic themes. He has exhibited internationally at Rhizoma, 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 and Edge of Arabia East London: #Cometogether in 2012. The relationship between consumerist ideology and capitalism is a major point of exploration in Shaweesh's recent works, which juxtapose mainstream Saudi culture alongside American cult figures. His Superheroes (2013) series features Captain America and Yoda from the cult classic film Star Wars.

Huda Beydoun: Following her degree in Special Education, Huda Beydoun has studied painting, digital media, and photography at Dar Al Hekma College, Jeddah. Previous exhibitions include Rhizoma, 55th Venice Biennale in 2013; Edition #1, Edge of Arabia Battersea, London; and group shows at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai and Athr Gallery, Jeddah. Beydoun’s series Documenting the Undocumented (2013) explores the lives of immigrant laborers working in Jeddah. Her photographs feature service workers in their ordinary working environment, however, their identities are masked with opaque Mickey Mouse features and their costumes decorated with polka dots. These satirical works comment on the Gulf's precarious relationship between guest workers and their employers.

Ajlan Gharem: Born in Khamis Mushayt in the South of Saudi Arabia, Ajlan Gharem moved to Abha to pursue an undergraduate degree in Mathematics at King Khalid University. Now a math teacher in Alsahabah Public School in Riyadh, Ajlan is a co-founder of Amen Art Foundation, which supports artists from the Middle East. Ajlan is presenting a series of works in progress for portfolio review.

Mohammed Sharaf: Mohammed Sharaf captures the shifting and deteriorating interior – both documenting and staging memento mori in the domestic landscapes of aging homes. The son of a painter, art has been part of Sharaf’s life since he was a toddler. In addition to a bachelor of business administration and one of graphic design, Sharaf is currently studying for an MFA in Design at the School of Visual Arts, NY. Exhibitions include Edition #1, Edge of Arabia, London 2014; Out of Kuwait, British Council, London; and Loud Art 3, Akhobar, Kuwait, 2013. At FotoFest’s portfolio review, Sharaf is presenting a body of work that is in progress, focused on interior spaces in Kuwait.

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