My presentation at the Colors of Saudi Arabia National Photography Conference was billed to start at 5 pm but, as the clock struck the hour, there was just three people in the auditorium – and the other two were technicians checking the sound system.
Not good, I surmised.
However, as the minarets fell silent and the afternoon prayer concluded (leaving my own desperate pleas to be heard by any god who was listening), people started arriving and within half an hour there was standing room only. It was the first time I’d stood before a Saudi audience – women covered by their black burkhas and men in their white theobes and head scarves – addressing participants through a translator. But photographs have a way of bridging the language divide and, in a short time, I’d jettisoned the speech I’d laboured over and we were all sharing questions and stories about the passion that united us. In fact, two hours passed so quickly, it was only due to the next presenter protesting that we had eaten into his time that we realised it was time to vacate the venue.
The next day, a bus picked us up and I led about 30 photographers out on a field trip to a nearby dam to put into practice some of what had been taught the day before. And the group could not have been more enthusiastic. Armed with what they had heard and the brief to creatively shoot what was largely a barren environment, they all hastily dispersed to climb mountains, clamber up and over dam walls and squat behind shrubs and rock formations to find different angles to produce what will become a small gallery of 30 images I’ll upload to this blog site and share with them on my return to Australia.
It should be said that this entire experience has been an absolute pleasure for me. All of the photographers were eager and thirsty for knowledge, each one of them quickly adapted to the challenges that were given and everyone returned brimming with excitement about what they had captured.
It’s times like this that I’m grateful to be a photographer who has something to share and, by this entry, I’d like to thank all of those who participated for what they actually taught me. It is indeed a privilege to be in this position I enjoy as an international travel photographer which, sometimes, I take for granted. But today, watching these emerging photographers growing by my instruction, was the sort of day where I couldn’t be happier about the road I’ve chosen and I couldn’t think of anything else I would have preferred to be doing.