Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2001/08/20

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Photography in Saudi Arabia
From: "Jim Laurel" <>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 15:02:57 -0700
References: <>

I spent the better part of this year photographing in Muslim countries
(Morocco, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan and Turkey).  The Koran prohibits
images of living creatures, which is why Islamic architecture generally
features geometric patterns rather than representations of animals or
people.  In fact, in many places around the world that have been conquered,
occupied or otherwise influenced by Muslims, you often see the faces
scratched off historic paintings and frescoes.  This is not a criticism,
just an observation.

However, as we all know, it is difficult to make generalizations,
particularly about the Islamic world, which is very diverse.

We found many people who were more than willing to be photographed.  Men
would often be open to having their picture taken.  Women are almost always
taboo subjects unless you ask first.  We asked and, on many occasions, were
granted permission.  Surreptitious street photrgraphy of the type we like
here on the LUG is generally frowned upon, so be careful.  I did quite a bit
of it and, particularly in Syria and Iran, was cursed and shooed away
several times.  My technique on the street was to simply go about taking
pictures, smile at people openly when they catch you, wave...just be
friendly.  If someone doesn't want thier photo taken, you will know it.
Back away quickly in a humble, respectful manner.  Perhaps even approach
them directly, shake hands and apologize.  I met plenty of nice people this
way!  But again, I generally shoot first and ask forgivness later, if
necessary.  The policies for photographing inside mosques varies, so be sure
to ask first.  Some may allow it, but no photos of certain shrines, etc.
Usually, if they are really serious about no photos, there will be signs.

I have no experience in Saudi, but my guess would be similar to Iran in
terms of level of strictness.  However, the Saudis, like the Jordanians and
Syrians are Sunni while the Persians are Shia, and I must admit to ignorance
about the more subtle cultural differences with regard to photographs.

One thing worth mentioning is that the Iranians are incredible shutterbugs!
They love to travel around thier country, taking pictures of themselves and
people they meet.  They burn film like crazy, often in vintage Zenit SLRs or
old Russian rangefinders!  We were always being asked to be photographed!

Don't believe the propoganda that the US State Dept puts out about the
Middle East and Muslim countries in general.  I have been to the ME twice
now, and find it a delightful place to travel.  Never once have I felt
threatened.  Just try to respect the local culture and be friendly with
people.  Iran is the best of all...hands-down the friendliest people I have
ever met in the world.

Best Regards,
- --Jim Laurel

- ----- Original Message -----
From: "Jason Vicinanza" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2001 1:28 PM
Subject: [Leica] Photography in Saudi Arabia

> I will be working in Saudi Arabia for a couple of days next week. Although
> ive worked in the Middle East before ive never been to Saudi.
> Does anyone have any advice re photography in the region. I don?t suppose
> street photography is big over there and could possible land me in a lot
> of hot water. Should I even bother? Any advice appreciated.
> Cheers
> Jason Vicinanza

Replies: Reply from Bill Satterfield <> (Re: [Leica] Photography in Saudi Arabia)
Reply from John Hudson <> (Re: [Leica] Photography in Saudi Arabia)
Reply from "Mxsmanic" <> (Re: [Leica] Photography in Saudi Arabia)
In reply to: Message from Jason Vicinanza <> ([Leica] Photography in Saudi Arabia)