photography in Saudi Arabia

Photographers struggle to take photos in public
By RIMA AL-MUKHTAR, LIFE.STYLE[at]ARABNEWS.COM


It’s hard to be a Saudi photographer, thanks to problems that arise when police or citizens raise objections to raising the camera. Even people trying to take pictures of their family and friends in public face these problems.

Oday Abid, a Saudi freelance photographer, says the authorities and members of the public are his greatest concern when taking pictures.

“Many of them become emotional and try to stop us, even forcibly,” he said.

The only secure way to take pictures in peace here is to ensure you aren’t pointing the camera at people or at sensitive assets, like government buildings or housing compounds.

“I usually avoid taking pictures in public or in places packed with people because people are always suspicious thinking that I might take pictures of them,” said Saudi photographer Dhahi Al-Ali.

Saudis are famously adverse to being photographed, particularly photographing family members and especially photographing women. The reasons behind this are complicated and linked to Saudi culture and family reputation. In the age of the Internet exhibition, the aversion has become stronger: The fear that a woman’s picture could end up online to sully the reputation of her and her family is strong enough that photos have been used by men for sexual blackmail, something the religious police grapple with constantly. Under Saudi law, anyone being photographed — even in a crowded public place — retains the right to object to being photographed.

In addition to the cultural fears and privacy concerns of photographing people in public, Saudi law explicitly states that certain buildings may not be photographed, citing security concerns. In most cases, this includes government buildings and anywhere a “No photographs” sign is posted. But police are known to stop and ask for permits from anyone taking photos of buildings.

“I was shooting in Malik Road one day and four police cars stopped me and asked for legal papers and a permit,” said Abid. “They then explained that I can take pictures anywhere I want expect areas and buildings that belongs to government and houses of people of high authorities.”

But this enforcement seems arbitrary.

Abid continued: “One of my photographer friends went to downtown Jeddah to take pictures of the architecture and the atmosphere of the historic heart of Jeddah, but unfortunately he was stopped by a policeman from taking pictures saying that photographers were portraying Jeddah in a bad way.”

Photographer Bakri Omar said while public photography is not explicitly prohibited the culture still feels very adversely to it, “and policemen are mixing law and tradition, so they keep stopping photographers from doing their job.”

With such pressure on taking pictures in public, many local photographers are forced to take their projects underground and shifting their style from artistic realism to photo manipulation.

“I usually take indoor pictures and use computer programs (such as Photoshop) to place backgrounds just to avoid explaining to people on the streets that I’m just photographing the outdoor features.”

Taking pictures in restaurants and shopping centers is also forbidden.

“I was assigned to take photos of Jeddah shopping centers for my school project back when I was in college, but when I tried to do it a security guard came up to me and asked me to put down my camera and stop taking pictures claiming it’s against the law,” said photographer Salma Enani. “When I tried to argue with him that photos of government buildings are the only ones prohibited not random shopping centers, he insisted that I put it down or he would take it away from me.”

Being nice to the people and explaining to them how photography works help assay concerns by subjects, according to Mokhtar Chahine.

“I was once waiting for hours to take a decent picture of the sunset on the Jeddah Conriche and when it finally started to set and the sky turned purple I started shooting. An old Saudi man came to me and angrily asked me what was I doing. I mean, isn’t it obvious?” said Chahine. “Of course I had to explain why I was taking those pictures and the purpose of them and he finally understood what I was doing and that I was not taking pictures of the women sitting with him. I think people understand if we speak to them and explain everything to them. Having the right attitude and not being rude really helps our people understand that photography is just an art not a harm.”

But until the society comes to terms with the art of public photography, Saudi Arabia will continue to be one of the more challenging countries for photographers outside of war zones.

Well,that i so true .We have faced the same problem :(

...and it is we who are now campaigning against publishing pics of the expat party at the DQ?

My Name Is Imran I Live In Pakistan Gujranwala I am a Little PhotoGrphar AND Adobe PhotoShop Opratore Last 10  I doing Job Fuji Color Pakistan Private Limited

can you link to this article?

I personally have had a camera shoved in my face countless times, either at work or out and about, either by Saudi male and females. I also have been filmed often, firstly unaware of this. I've had many requests to have photos taken with their families or a friend. Usually when they ask, I , in-turn request a photo with my camera. The response 9.8 times out of 10 is, "No"., yet they will usually insist having a pic, saying, “what is the problem”?  Errrrh......

When Saudis visit our countries they have no objection pulling out their cameras and photographing anything and everything. As a guest in our countries, it is their right to have many cultural experiences using the medium of photography of a reminder of a wonderful time. However , when we come to Saudi, as guests we are not permitted to enjoy those same experiences. Is that fair, considering it is 2013 and not 1913?

@suzan, the saying goes, when in Rome be like roman. When saudi people visit your country they have to follow your cultures and freedom. When you come here you have to follow their culture and no freedom.

I love photography, had experiences traveling around Africa and clicking wonderful pictures but here its all different. I have a small Nikon DSLR camera. Can you imagine i dint click any picture until now in Saudi. I dont know where to click and where not too.

suzan :

When Saudis visit our countries they have no objection pulling out their cameras and photographing anything and everything. As a guest in our countries, it is their right to have many cultural experiences using the medium of photography of a reminder of a wonderful time. However , when we come to Saudi, as guests we are not permitted to enjoy those same experiences. Is that fair, considering it is 2013 and not 1913?

British people get pulled up by the police when photographing 'sensitive' buildings in the UK.  It's not as free as you make out.

But as to people, we know to ask men if they don't mind their picture being taken, and learn to accept refusal.  We don't photograph women.  The furthest I'd go in the position of being asked to have my picture taken (I'm easy on this) is to hand my email addy over and ask if they don't mind sending me a photo to remember meeting them from their pictures.  They're likely not going to do it, but the human interaction is a social function in itself and it builds memories in our heads.  There's no insult intended by refusal as it's their culture, and we certainly cannot compare our own cultures to theirs unfairly, particularly since, with the passage of time, our own cultures were somewhat similar 150-200 years ago and that's not that long ago to be fair.

I couldn't agree less.
Photographers are really having hard time enjoying their hobby out in the public, especially when you want to experience street photography. Good luck.

Saudi Arabia: Photography and videography in public places to be illegal

According to sources at the General Authority for Audiovisual Media, Saudi authorities are planning to issue a new regulation shortly to reduce videography and photography in public places, especially using cellphone cameras.

This move is in light of the recent nation-wide outrage caused by various local incidents that came to the spotlight after the video clips of the events were widely shared on social media.

The new regulation is aimed at putting an end to the random recording of people and events in public places without prior permission. It is to be noted that filming people without permission is considered as an invasion of their privacy and violation of rights. Sign boards will be set up in areas where videography and photography is not allowed, reported Akhbaar24.

suribhai :

I love photography, had experiences traveling around Africa and clicking wonderful pictures but here its all different. I have a small Nikon DSLR camera. Can you imagine i dint click any picture until now in Saudi. I dont know where to click and where not too.

It is the same thing here, I have both my DSLR and compact DSLR with me but sadly I have not put them to good use since I came to KSA. Everytime I intend to bring them out for random shots in the streets, the nagging uncertainty made me decide against it.

At the Janadriyah festival, some teenaged Saudi boys came up to me and asked if they could take pictures with me.  I generally agree when it's women or families but NOT with single males.  So I said no.

However, I noticed them skulking around, sneaking pics of me anyway (but at least they weren't in them lol).

Taking photos is illegal? That's kinda negative.

Taking photos is not completely illegal, but you need to remember few things. while photography, Do not target any women, public places, government buildings, police, mosque, check posts, security forces etc. To take snaps sometimes i do it hiding and thats allowed, but need to be too careful to do so. If you are travelling outside Riyadh, you can enjoy your photography in desert or sea. Rules here are different than any other country in the world, so make sure you wont endup in trouble.

funny, we go on photo walks all the time
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5502/10088629783_5016425a4b.jpg
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7401/10088605925_a5d5ac9fc2.jpg

never have an issue

But those are Pakistani males.

that wasnt the thing that was said multiple times.

we go on biweekly photo walks. take pictures in gov places/of mosques/saudis/pakistanis/indians/whatever.  and we never have an issue. be it a male group, or mixed group. i have hundreds of images from street photography her ein ksa, both at historical sites and the middle of downtown riyadh and everywhere in between.

I could only comment on the two you posted.. of Pakistani men LOL

Freshlikesushi :

funny, we go on photo walks all the time
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5502/1008 … 425a4b.jpg
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7401/1008 … ac9fc2.jpg

never have an issue

Where do you go normally?
Id like to go be out and about for photography.

everywhere. ushaiger, downtown riyadh, masmak fort, compounds, we are setting up free workshops and group events as well
Riyadh photo group on facebook, however we are extremely selective on who joins.

Freshlikesushi :

everywhere. ushaiger, downtown riyadh, masmak fort, compounds, we are setting up free workshops and group events as well
Riyadh photo group on facebook, however we are extremely selective on who joins.

alright.

sh3hryar :
Freshlikesushi :

everywhere. ushaiger, downtown riyadh, masmak fort, compounds, we are setting up free workshops and group events as well
Riyadh photo group on facebook, however we are extremely selective on who joins.

alright.

:lol:

Freshlikesushi :

however we are extremely selective on who joins.

What was that famous quote by Groucho? :D

Keeps drama, inactive members, amd those there for reasons other than photo out of the group

i have been caught photographing my Saudi women colleagues and awaiting what will happen next.any idea what my punishment would be?

If they will follow the rules unfortunately it will be combination of whip, jail then get back to your country, try to resolve it friendly out of the courts, if they are the original Saudi families and this reached their family, simply they will kill you before reaching courts.

There is no way on god's green earth that an Australian will get whipped in this country, no way.  And on top of that, an Australian woman?  Hell no!

Nothing will happen, hopefully.  If they are friendly with you normally, it should be ok, unless it was obvious you were photographing very secretively or that you intended to show the pictures to other people.  Who caught you?

Note: I am assuming you are a woman, first, because you have women colleagues, and second, because of your username.  If you are male, I don't know what to think of the situation.

Hello Trapezius, what "Australian" means for Saudis? Man, unless you are Muslim or it reaches the king of Saudi, nothing can change the courts decisions, even if the king of Saudi he will try to solve it outside the courts, get back to archived news and you will find people from nationalities reputied more than Australian went "Cutting Heads" because of drugs, terrorism or Alcohol in Saudi, believe me they don't care at all about Australian or any other nationality.

Just posting here to say i was so happy to get a new cam few days ago and today i was stopped by the police for taking a photo for my relatives, the police man said i could go for jail because of this.
i dont understand , if photography is banned then it cameras should be banned from the market

it isnt banned.
there is a royal decree
I take pictures TONS of places

https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2908/14284598649_a6c214487d_c.jpgrabwa-4 by Flsimages, on Flickr
https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2918/14471222965_4c9beb73dd_c.jpgrabwa-5 by Flsimages, on Flickr
https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2818/13870546294_270d8b0f36_c.jpgHaraj Market by Flsimages, on Flickr
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7436/12361930824_fed2c0e2c9_c.jpgIrqah hospital by Flsimages, on Flickr
(note. police came here, asked us questions. we were polite, showed them what we were shooting, and they left)
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7389/12838166554_d94b2018e3_c.jpgThumamah Camels by Flsimages, on Flickr
https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5517/12034559626_51b0c65270_c.jpgScrapyard, Riyadh by Flsimages, on Flickr
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7428/12034338283_c6d0041ed1_c.jpgScrapyard, Riyadh by Flsimages, on Flickr
https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2841/10989015435_f43ef3b95a_c.jpgLike a boss by Flsimages, on Flickr
https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2887/10989138466_24466bf227_c.jpgSqueaky clean by Flsimages, on Flickr

and i have hundreds more taken in the streets and around riyadh.

How you deal with them is the biggest thing.  Dont push it. if they say stop, stop. Go somewhere else and do it.
you wont get in trouble UNLESS:
You are taking pictures deliberately of women or families without consent
GOV or MIL buildings
And a few other things

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8n4Xj … sp=sharing
This is the decree.

Freshlikesushi :

it isnt banned.
there is a royal decree
I take pictures TONS of places

[TONS OF PICTURES WERE HERE]

and i have hundreds more taken in the streets and around riyadh.

How you deal with them is the biggest thing.  Dont push it. if they say stop, stop. Go somewhere else and do it.
you wont get in trouble UNLESS:
You are taking pictures deliberately of women or families without consent
GOV or MIL buildings
And a few other things

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8n4Xj … sp=sharing
This is the decree.

I couldn't agree more, Kudos for sharing man.

guys, keep a print out of the decree linked by Freshlikesushi, place it in your camera bag, and show it if you think you're in trouble to the authorities. but remember, be respectful and never put your self in a spot.

man do I wish I had Camera or what. lol.

Salman

PS:
Awesome pics by the way. maybe you could do something like the facebook page: "Humans of NewYork" and do portraits of people in Riyadh or Saudi in general. well, just an Idea.

Wow, this is helpful ,though not a photographer .But gotta ask ''sushi" that can this decree be used by anyone or for whom it helps .

it covers photo taking.  thats the jist of it. anyone with a camera can use it

Salman. me and another photographer have one

riyadhstreet.tumblr.com/

Freshlikesushi :

it covers photo taking.  thats the jist of it. anyone with a camera can use it

Salman. me and another photographer have one

riyadhstreet.tumblr.com/

You just got one more fan! :D

Hi all,

I love all the photographs shown above. I am sure it must have taken the photographer several years to polish up his skills.

There was another thread on the forum by the topic " Is photography allowed in Saudi Arabia".

I suggest members should go through it too to see some interesting experiences of expats in KSA.

The better part of a decade


I took those pictures lol

I want to become a landscape photographer is there really no future for me in KSA for my hobby
Previously i use mobile camera but after 12 grade exam i was planning to buy camera
I talked to my father about it his reaction was quite harsh because of saudi laws
What should i do any suggestions to avoid the situations u just mentioned

Hi Fati.ch99,

Please be informed that this is an old thread. I suggest you create your own topic on the Saudi Arabia forum so that to gather as much information as possible.

All the best,
Bhavna

fati.ch99 :

I want to become a landscape photographer is there really no future for me in KSA for my hobby
Previously I use mobile camera but after 12 grade exam i was planning to buy camera
I talked to my father about it his reaction was quite harsh because of saudi laws
What should i do any suggestions to avoid the situations u just mentioned

The culture has been changed here a lot... Now they encourage tourism and there are very beautiful places in Saudi Arabia.

And I believe, Saudi Arabia is the best place for landscape photography. I am in this country since last one and a half year and on almost, every Friday or Saturday go on photo walks.

you can check the landscapes on my Instagram account. www.instagram.com/azzy.doon

Best regards.

New topic