Maha Al Asaker is a Kuwaiti photographer based in New York City. She is a 2014 ICP graduate from the Full Time Program in general Studies. Maha’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in New York City, United Arab of Emarit and Kuwait. Her personal work, especially her self-portraits deal with identity and cultural issues. Besides that, Maha primarily shoots fashion and lifestyle. Here’s more from Maha with a fine selection of images from her personal work:
My name is Maha Al Asaker, a Kuwaiti photographer based in New York City. I was born and raised in Kuwait, and moved to NYC in August 2013.
I am an enthusiastic and curious person; I think my interest in art led me to photography. I experimented earlier in my life with painting, drawing, and collage, and ended up with photography, where I found my passion and my pleasure.
There are many female photographers in the Middle East; many of them are low key, and some of them trying harder than others. I believe there is only one area that might be difficult for a female photographer, which is the personal work. There are some taboos areas that will be difficult for a woman to express in her photos (and sometime even for a man). As the society doesn’t expect women to expose themselves and their feelings to the universe, it is still doesn’t understand it and sometimes fights it.
For a long time I was in search for my identity and what I want to be in life. I had a long journey to figure out what I wanted! After the school, I fell in love with the analog camera and the darkroom.
I studied Industrial Engineering, basically because I love math! Then I worked in the investment sector for years, until I figured out that this is not what I wanted, I was good at it, but wasn’t happy!
In 2007, I held a camera and became an addict. I taught myself in the beginning, then I wanted to learn more, I travelled to London in 2008, and I took a course in fashion photography. I owned a studio in Kuwait and worked as an editorial and portrait photographer for 6 years. In 2012, I worked with Marie Claire in Kuwait for one year. In august 2013, I moved to NYC and studied photography at International Center of Photography.
What is your statement as a photographer? You’ve been taking a Variety of pictures (lifestyle, fashion, personal projects etc.)… What do you like shooting most?
My work engages with identity and cultural issues. Personal projects act as my voice to express myself. I am really bad with explaining myself in words, so I use photography as a tool to say what is inside my mind!
With fashion photography, I work in collaboration with my friend Maddalena Arcelloni, a photographer, and we call ourselves “MahaLena”. Working as a team makes it even more creative, fun, and a learning experience.
Tell us about the equipment (camera and lenses) you mostly use. What are your views on editing and digital manipulation?
For my personal projects, I use analog camera Hasselblad 500C with 80mm lens and Nikon 35mm with 50mm lens. For fashion, we use digital camera Nikon D700. As for lenses, they depend on the project, however I use 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 85mm and Macro 100m.
What do you think about contemporary photography, social media, etc.?
Social media helps us to get closer to the audience, and act as a great marketing tool for emerging artists, in terms of gaining exposure, and finding commission work.
Whether the picture has been taken by smart phone cameras, or medium format cameras, I think at the end it is all about the project. At the end, the camera is a medium to deliver the message; and different messages need different tools.
I have been represented by JHB Gallery since July 2014, and participated in the following exhibition in the US:
- MAR 5-8, 2015 – “Art on Paper” with JHB Gallery, Manhattan, US.
- DEC 2-7,2014 – “ Miami Project “with JHB Gallery, Miami, US.
- OCT 30,2014 – “ArtWalk Auction” with JHB Gallery, Manhattan, US.
- JULY 10-13, 2014 – “ArtMarket – Hampton ” with JHB Gallery, Hampton, US
I’ve been published in Contributor magazine, F Stop, Musee Magazine etc.
My future projects are the one that I didn’t think about yet. My ambition is to be a recognized photographer in NYC. I have big dreams and many challenges to overcome, but I do believe in baby steps and hard work.
I left my country in 2013, because I like the challenge. I have chosen NYC, as it the city of photography, and it is the most challenging place to start a career. But for me this is what makes it my place, I need to live on the edge of my life to be alive.
My favorite photographers are Man Ray and Fransceca Woodman. My favorite films are Tetro, All about my mother and E.T
Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers:
Follow your dreams, and when you have obstacles in your life, this is the time where you should take a picture!