Malek has always been fascinated by different cultures and countries. He believes that in order to create beautiful art, he must first be able to absorb everything around him, and the more he absorbs, the more he is able to express this experience through photography.
Thanks for your time Malek. Are you originally from Bahrain?
Yes, I am a through and through Bahraini, born and raised in East Riffa! My father is Bahraini and my mum was born and brought up in Bahrain. My grandparents from my mum’s side came to Bahrain from Lebanon in mid '50s, and my Jiddu opened the first Lebanese restaurant in the country. So I had the best of both worlds.
How did growing up in Bahrain influence you?
Growing up we were taught that in order to be successful we should be good at mathematics, science and other related subjects, especially at high-school. I remember though, that I used to spend many of my classes bored out of my mind and looking out the window. One day, my mathematics teacher walked up to the window and closed the blinds, just to stop me from looking outside! I always enjoyed arts and music but unfortunately, at that time, those classes were deemed as extra curricular activities, and so were only scheduled in our timetable once a week.
So how and when you start exploring photography?
My older brother Saleh is also a creative individual who pursued his Masters in film production. During his first year as a student in the UK, I had just entered high-school in Bahrain. He took photography courses that first year as part of his degree and whenever he came home for the holidays, I used to borrow his camera and take pictures of my friends. Eventually, I claimed ownership of that camera and started taking it to school almost everyday, where I would just explore different techniques and discover the limits of the camera.
How did that initial interest then evolve?
After graduating from high-school, one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to leave the island. I ended up pursuing a Business Management degree in Newcastle, UK. Even though I found the subject easy and I could have done well, I still had little interested in this subject. Instead I found myself exploring nearby towns and just taking pictures with my brother’s (and now my) camera. One particular day, it was raining, it was windy and it was cold, and I wanted to take a picture of a lighthouse I saw in the distance. Unfazed by the weather, I kept going and going until I reached up close, climbed some rocks and took the shot. That’s when I knew that this is what I wanted to do, and this is who I wanted to be. And so I dropped my Business Management course and enrolled at the New England School of Photography in Boston.
How did your style of photography then develop?
Just like our sense of clothing and taste in food, I don’t believe that we have a conscious choice in choosing our style or subject; I believe many things can determine this such as the environment we grow up in, and the influences we get from our family, friends and tutors. In fact, if I ever think for a moment that I have a choice, I almost immediately find myself in a creative block. Because I become short-sighted by creating a tunnel vision in the sense that: “I will only create photos of this or that.” I believe in order to create beautiful art I must first be able to absorb everything around me, and the more I absorb the more I am able to express this experience through photography. I was always fascinated by different cultures, and therefore I love take photos of people from all walks of life. I love nature, and so naturally, I love photographing landscapes. I also appreciate architecture and that's why I minored in architectural photography, and so this is how my particular process of 'choosing' - if you want to call it that – unfolds. Although it is not limited to these areas and I am always ready to push my boundaries.
What motivates you as a photographer?
I get motivated when I see other people pursuing their passions and succeeding. Also, when I see good photography and good art, this also inspires me to increase the quality of my own art. There is always more to learn and we never stop growing. When I see people supporting art and finding value in it, this is also a great motivation for me.
What is your particular artistic process?
I explore. I step out of my comfort zone and try not to say to myself that; “this is good enough.” I also take my time. Art is not a competition; it is an expression. We need the time to reflect, to experience, and to learn in order to produce photos that are worthy of being recognized. I believe that as I develop personally, my photography also develops. I try not to imagine how a shoot will turn out as reality can be quite different from what we imagined it to be. A valuable lesson that one of my instructors imparted was; to SEE and not to THINK, and so I implement this on every project. All in all, I always follow my heart.
Do you have any photographic influences?
The photography of Eric Ogden and Olaf Heine were the first that influenced me to improve my photography skills from a technical side; their natural use of colour and light hinted that there is a lot more to the art than I actually know. For the past few years, Steve McCurry’s work has also been a major influence on me for his style of capturing the human soul within his images; if you look at most of his work, you can almost feel the life in them, like you are there, in that moment, with him.
Have you exhibited, if so where, when?
I have had the honour of exhibiting my work at Al Riwaq Art Gallery back in April 2011 - this was one of my first and biggest exhibitions. I also had my work exhibited for The Sheikh Ebrahim Center for Culture and Heritage. This was a workshop about Documenting Muharraq led by Chamille Zakaria in December 2011. In September 2013 I had a selection of photos exhibited in the Sharjah Art Foundation for the Vantage Point Sharjah, and in 2018, one of my photos was selected as Editor’s Choice for a National Geographic My Shot assignment called; Pop of Colour.
And what are your plans for the future?
My plan is to keep building and working on my portfolio. At the moment my main focus is on producing a coherent body of work that can tell a story, and so there are several long-term projects that I am working on.
And your dream?
My dream is to eventually become a full-time photographer for National Geographic.
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