Last Updated: Fri Apr 22, 2011 15:04 pm (KSA) 12:04 pm (GMT)

What’s behind Arab faces? Saudi photographer offers clues in a solo exhibit

The 'True Faces' exhibit.
The 'True Faces' exhibit.

With the idea of revealing the “inner-sense” of oneself, Ali Al Sumayin set out to photograph the human face. His images do not wash out wrinkles; he seeks to underscore that wrinkles are more of an aging factor in the mind, than of the flesh.

“To capture the real moments in life, you should rim inside the eyes and move along the wrinkles shadow from the outer corner,” he said. The exhibit, called “True Faces,” he added, is an effort to document the true depth of human life in an attempt to take off the metaphorical masks we wear every day.

Showing at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (DUCTAC) until April 28, “True Faces” is the Saudi photographer’s first solo exhibit.

The installation includes more than 20 portraits that capture the core interactions between people on the streets during six states of their daily lives and their reaction to these different circumstances.

Mr. Al-Sumayin has been interested in the human face as a subject since 2000 and has since then used them in photographs as a way to document life. “True Faces” is his attempt at removing the metaphorical masks that Mr. Al-Sumayin believes we wear in order to protect our vulnerable inner selves, to fit in with society and to project social conformance.

“Sometimes, a smile and a simple breakfast is all it takes for someone to open up to you,” he said of photographing the “True Faces” of his subjects.

“In the case of the sailors in Dubai, that was all it took to remove the barriers between us. Some of my subjects have lowered their masks because I have been by their side during times of tragedy, allowing me to take gripping portraits like one taken in Italy after the earthquake in 2009. Creating these images has taught me that we need to take the time to get to know the people we are interacting with in order to delve into their true soul,” he said.

Mr. Al-Sumayin was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, and is currently based in Dubai, where he works as a designer and photographer. His photographs have been featured in various media reports.

(Ikram Al Yacoub of Al Arabiya can be reached at:

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