The veil as an accentuation of beauty

Published: August 25, 2012
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The photo is entitled 'An Emerging Mystery' and I feel as though it is symbolic of Muslim women's increasing prominence in the world, despite a continued mystery that surrounds their veil. PHOTO: SEBASTIAN FARMBOROUGH

The image you see above is based on one of my very first experiences in Saudi Arabia. With the naked beaches of Barcelona a not too distant memory, I headed down to the Arabian Gulf for a dip. There, I became mystified by something black and obscure out at sea. It looked like a huge jellyfish. Then, as it approached closer, I realised that it was in fact a woman.

It was such an intense experience that I just had to capture it for myself. However, it was not until a few years later in Dubai, when I had acquired the equipment and expertise necessary, that I was able to execute it properly. Anyone trying to take a picture like this in Saudi Arabia, would run the risk of ending up in prison, so in a more liberal city of the UAE, I was able to realise my vision and fulfill it.

It actually took me a year to find the right lady for this task I had embarked on completing. Yes, there are lots of women with beautiful eyes in the Emirates, but finding one who was open-minded enough to actually be a part of this photograph, now that was a challenge! The picture itself was taken at the break of dawn at the Burj Al Arab beach. The timing was perfect as it did exactly what I wanted in the photograph; iridescent soft light falling on her and the sun reflecting in her eyes.

It was winter as well, so the sea was freezing and we were both submerged in the cold water. The model and I had only met a couple of times and so we got to know each other as the shoot progressed. It was an incredible experience altogether. Finishing the line of hours of hard work with a nice mug of hot chocolate on the beach was a treat that gave warmth to my success of producing a photo that I have been willing to for a long time .

The photo is entitled ‘An Emerging Mystery’ and I feel as though it is extremely symbolic of Muslim women’s increasing prominence in the world, despite a continued mystery that surrounds their veil. The Saudi veil is so often portrayed negatively in the West that I hope to counteract that to some extent and prevent the Western public from being misled as to the image that is drawn of the Saudi society. Many Muslim women actually choose to wear the veil and I am more than happy to respect their decision; it is their conscious decision not an imposed one. The veil in no way hinders their progression or their amazing personalities.

The image marks the beginning of a project that I have been wanting to carry out for some time. All we ever hear about Saudi Arabia seems to be negative, where as having lived there for three years, I can assure you that the reality is quite different.

In fact, there are many things that we westerners could learn from them. I really admired and enjoyed the strength of their friendships, the closeness of their families, their sense of humour and how friendly and generous they are. With this and other images I would like to try and redress the balance a bit and produce a book reflecting the more magical and beautiful aspects of the kingdom.

Sebastian.Farmborough

Sebastian Farmborough

An English photographer with a passion for travel and cross-cultural communication. He uses pictures to express what words cannot.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.