Hayat Osamah – photographer documenting Saudi youth

Hayat Osamah

Capturing the rawness of Saudi youth, photographer Hayat Osamah offers a dissonant narrative to that of Western visions of the Middle East. As evidence of creative expansion facilitated by fashion magazines and the wonderful world of social media, Hayat gives some perspective on the Saudi creative scene as she, along with its other makers, continue to surpass long withstanding boundaries.

PP: How did you discover photography, especially analog photography?
HO: Fashion led me to it. When I was young, I used to document my outfits and then fell in love with photography, and never thought that there were different formats until I saw old magazines and wondered how they took those pictures! Then I discovered film photography and everything changed for me
PP: What role does social media play for you as photographer?
HO: It’s a huge platform to express through! And for me, it connected me to like-minded people and is an eye opener for sure
PP: Your subjects are often your friends and other Saudi creatives, can you tell us a little bit about the emerging Saudi creative scene?
HO: Well, how I pick my subjects is me searching for visually interesting people, then meeting them and building a friendship before making them the subject of my camera, and now, whoever thinks they fit in my work they just approach me. Now it’s a scene where everyone knows everyone and it keeps getting bigger because it’s so influential

Portrait of Hayat by Taha

Portrait of Hayat by Taha

PP: There seems to be a lot of change happening, what would you say is the biggest change occurring right now?
HO: I wouldn’t say change, its more an uncovering of the scenes, and the fashion and art scene is becoming more and more appreciated
PP: How have the recent changes in Saudi society affected how you work and how you interact with other young people?
HO: There were just unnecessary boundaries which now have become more open!
PP: What would you say are the biggest misconceptions people in the West have about your home country?
HO: Oh I can go all day answering this question. But unfortunately they still think we’re living in a desert with oil money, which doesn’t make sense that we’d have that money and not use it to build a country rather than just chilling in the desert
PP: What would you say to someone who’s curious and wants to visit?
HO: Visit. And see for yourself!
PP: What are the places you think a first time visitor should go to?
HO: Old souk, Masmak fort, I love these places because they are culturally rich
PP: Can you tell us a little about your project Recent Magazine, how did that come about?
HO: I started Recent Magazine in 2018 and the goal of it has been to offer a small platform for the young creatives to express themselves. Now it’s paused because it was a one woman show, and will be until I form a team to make it consistent
PP: What other artists–current or past–do you look up to and who or what inspires you?
HO: Bruce Gilden is the ultimate inspiration because he loves to connect with his subject on a personal level, and he shows rawness and realness, and that’s what inspires me, he sees the beauty in everything
PP: Any exciting projects you have in the pipeline you want to talk about?
HO: I want to document my generation in a real and raw way. Everyone is focused on documenting the past and I want to document now