By Hayat Ahmed | Riyadh
WEEKEND FEATURE Lights, camera, action! That’s the line Saudi international wedding photographer Tasneem Al-Sultan has chosen, a far cry from linguistics and literature she had pursued in her post-graduation degree days.
Having realized that pictures speak a lot more than words, she decided to get behind the camera, a childhood passion, and subsequently specialized in wedding shoots which began in Bahrain in 2010. Initially, it was fun shooting families and kids, but the professionalism got the better of her, and she took to shooting weddings. And to what effect!
“The excitement and the vibes that weddings generate in me as a photographer were incomparable, which made me specialize only in wedding shoots,” Tasneem said, as she unraveled her photographic journey.
“Saudi society generally does not encourage women to be entrepreneurs and to have their own business. Most families encourage their kids to be in high-paid professions such as engineering or medicine. Due to my upbringing in US in my early childhood, my family stimulated me to be brave and run my own business away from what society wants from me. There were no more excuses to hire someone to shoot my own kids. I had a workshop in US and had my own camera too, so I was half-way there already, and I only needed a sign to start,” she said.
“I am glad, however, that nowadays Saudi society has changed and many young entrepreneurs exist regardless of their backgrounds, most of whom started from scratch. We actually inspire each other,” she said.
Commenting on how her study in literature affects her photographic outlook, Tasneem said: “My love for literature and romance in general has an undeniable trace in the way I shoot. It’s hard for Arabs as a society, and Saudis in particular, to express emotions. I try to get out the best out of them in that aspect or to release “Mr. Darcy” within each Saudi man.”
Speaking on the sacrifices she had to make to be a success, Tasneem said: “I travel a lot which is physically exhausting. Financially speaking, I had to start from scratch, and I was not certain how it will end up. I was not sure if the passion will fade away in a few days. I sacrificed my teaching career as well. I think it was worth all that, so I don’t regret any sacrifices I made.”
Commenting on the reason why she is located in Dubai and how that helps in photography, she said: “Dubai is second home to me as my family lives there. Dubai is a platform where I meet a lot of international photographers, and I get to compare my works with theirs and learn from them, which is stirring. I also get to have international clients there due to the location. Further, I have the opportunity to do a lot of outdoor shooting as the atmosphere and available locations help in doing that. In my photography based in Dubai, I am not constrained by culture or tradition, my photography represents me.”
Speaking of the devices she uses to capture moments, Tasneem says: ”I only use Canon SLR 5D mark 3. I rarely use Photoshop simply because I’m a beginner. When you know the correct exposure, sharpness and contrast in the camera options, you don’t need Photoshop. I don’t Photoshop because our brides are airbrushed with make-up and are already dressed to kill. You can’t find a single fault about their appearance that you will need to correct by computer.”
“People see happy brides in my photos. While shooting, I make sure that my brides do not pose being happy. They are genuinely happy in front of the camera. If a bride, however, is so stressed, I will either show her how she looks, or make it a timeline in pictures when she started as a happy bride but then became relaxed when she saw her husband. I live all these emotional details with the bride while shooting which makes me relive them again when I edit the photos,” she said.
Commenting on differences in weddings in the Gulf, Tasneem says: “Weddings are different especially in different time zones. While Riyadh weddings finish at around 4 or 5 a.m., the ones at the Eastern region finish at around 2:00 a.m. However, the people of Jeddah party all the time, you feel the wedding never ends. In UAE, and in Al-Ain in particular, the wedding lasts just for an hour. The weddings are almost similar, but the rituals especially of Henna nights differ.”