By: Ebrahim Al-Sharif
Although photography plays a crucial role in the in Yemen, Yemenis have traditionally labeled it as a profession of marginal importance. This is unfortunate because many of Yemeni events are rarely covered by Yemeni photographers. Instead, most events are covered by foreign photographers who show Yemen as their news agencies want — a country of terrorism, qat, weapon carrying, and early marriage. It is not surprising then that foreign photographers often overlook the natural beauty of our country.
There are many struggles which photographers face in Yemen. The biggest reason is that Yemenis are not used to seeing Yemeni photographers take pictures of political events or even in touristic places like foreigners photographers do. As a result, Yemeni society does not accept the idea of Yemeni photographers, creating a misunderstanding of the role of photography in the country. There is also not enough encouragement, education, cheap photography equipment, access to needed facilities or official support that Yemen photographers can draw upon. Consequently, Yemen lacks needed photographers and a critical understanding of how valuable photography is. This is why lucrative photography jobs are simply left to foreigners.
However much has changed in Yemeni photography as a result of the protests in Change Square and beyond. Now there are new faces, new cameras and new ideas that are successful documenting our reality and unfolding history.
Yemeni photography fans were quick to purchase new professional and normal cameras alike to fulfill their duties to Yemen by detailing the recent events in photos and videos. Even female photographers have used cameras and phones to take pictures showing the role of women in the revolution.
With all of the powerful photography that has taken place, the leaders in Change Square created a photographic exhibit inside the Change Square itself that included different photos from different photographers covering a wide range of facts and issues. This exhibit, in addition to many other photos from the revolution will be shown in Qatar, Spain and in the US.
In an effort to decrease the amount of photographers in Yemen that are
documenting the recent events, the Ministry of Media has not permitted
international photographers to enter Yemen. While their efforts have
generally succeeded, it has been a huge shock for the government to
deal with the increasing amount of Yemeni photographers. As a
response, security institutions have ordered commands prevent
non-governmental photographers to photograph in many areas. Many
cameras have been taken by police, some were broken, but worst of all,
photographers have been injured or even killed because they showed the
truth of what has really been happening through out Yemen.
This reality has forced many photographers in Yemen to live inside the
Change Square and other squares to do whatever they can do to show the
full image of the unprecedented events. More than ever, Yemen is in
need for photographers to capture the reaction of the people, spread
urgent messages, expose hidden plots and document the effects of the
revolution on Yemeni society.
As such, we should increase our support for Yemeni photographers as
they will play key roles in future of our country. We should start by
protecting the copyrights for photographers, creating more
photographic exhibits in Yemen, increasing photography lessons in
schools, and by creating an official association for Yemeni
These steps are small but essential as they will help photographers
play important roles in building Yemen by documenting the truth of the
events that will shape our future.