x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

A simple lens captures life best

A picture says more than a thousand words. And if it's a really good picture, it may even have a message that goes beyond words.

A picture says more than a thousand words. And if it's a really good picture, it may even have a message that goes beyond words.

If you have ever visited the Al Jahli Fort in Al Ain you may have seen Wilfred Thesiger's black and white images, which tell some fascinating stories. He was called Mubarak Bin London by the tribesmen who became friends with the Ethiopian-born Brit, who crossed the Empty Quarter twice in the 1940s. This man had a story to tell, he did it with pictures and now, 50 years on, his story is as resonant as it was half a century ago.

And guess what? He didn't have a super-charged digital device that will only fail to give you a properly exposed and sharp picture if you leave the lens cap on.

In that time and place, taking a picture was not something undertaken at random. With a limited amount of shots on each roll of film, each shot had to be carefully thought out; there was no chance of retouching on Photoshop as there is today. Before the actual click of the shutter, photographers back then thought about the message they wanted the picture to tell before dealing with the technical issues: light, distance, focus, exposure. And then finally, click.

If you Google "most famous photos", most of the ones you will see date back to pre-digital times, and almost half are in black and white. The name of the late Noor Ali Rashid comes to mind, the Pakistani-born royal photographer of the UAE. He captured key moments of the UAE's history.

Nowadays, we can view technical masterpieces, and I'm always thrilled to see entries in photo competitions that have captured a wonderful building or a sunset. Their beauty is enchanting; it pleases both the eyes and relaxes the mind.

However, in viewing some of the entries, I fail to understand how so few of the many who have invested in all the equipment and clicked voraciously to capture myriad images have emerged as real photographers. I can only assume there is some lack of understanding of what the medium is. I think of a good photographer as someone who is a skilled craftsman or craftswoman with a message to share, and a talent to capture more than 1,000 words in one shot.

Nonetheless, it's good to see how many of my Emirati brothers and sisters are now open minded enough to find it's not "haram" to take pictures, and are discovering the joy of good photography.

One day soon, we shall see an unforgettable and touching picture, taken by an Emirati in the UAE, which will be recognisable the world over.


Language lesson

Arabic: Oowd

English: Large or Big

When describing something above average in size we use the term "oowd". For instance, that ogal (headgear) is really oowd! It's also a nickname for any friends who are quite big.