“A picture is worth a thousand words, right?” says 25-year-old Omani photographer Ali Al Sharji. Introvert since he was a child, Al Sharji found refuge in his creative household, where he first started experimenting with poetry and drawing. But it wasn’t until he started taking pictures that Al Sharji fundamentally found the confidence to express himself and open up.
When he was 19, he travelled to Dubai to shoot his The Dance of Leila series, which featured a ballet dancer wearing a black veil and abaya. “I was too young and inexperienced at the time so I didn’t even know I needed a permit to shoot”, he says before adding, “a security guard confiscated my SD card”. Luckily, Al Sharji managed to get it back and the picture went on to be exhibited in Saudi Arabia. Reposted by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, the image sparked a viral debate on feminism and diversity, “my life would not have been the same without this SD card”, he says.
Whether it’s documentary or conceptual photography, Al Sharji’s images always hint at an underlying story. The young photographer has an unwavering approach and rare ability to capture people and places with a compelling tone. “Photography merely has the power to capture humanity”, he says. But while photography is what has allowed Al Sharji to literally feel alive, the feeling of no longer existing is what morbidly inspires his work. “I want to explore death”, he says before adding, “nobody wants to be forgotten. The reminder that death is coming gives me this indescribable motive to create and inspire people around me”.