Dalia al Bassami: Paving the way for other female photographers

The Show is Oman Daily Observer’s digital programme that puts spotlight on some of Oman’s talented citizens, residents and the movers and shakers of the society. Happening every Wednesday at 5 pm via Facebook LIVE, make sure to follow our social media accounts to get the latest updates.

To celebrate the Omani Women’s Day, the O Show put into the spotlight Dalia al Bassami, an established photographer who has a passion for abstract and street photography.
We asked her to go back to when His Majesty Sultan Qaboos declared October 17th as a day dedicated to Omani Women.
“Women used to play subtler roles — and they are often found at home. Although women were important for performing the roles they traditionally play, the declaration brought in a lot of prominence,” she noted.
She added, “The day declared has definitely had an impact. Looking back on that day, we women photographers got together to plan something special. We decided to have an exhibition. Since then we have been doing it annually and the ninth exhibition is currently going on until October 23rd at Omani Photography Association located in Al Khodh.”
Asked how the women photographers have evolved over the years, she said, “Omani female photographers are proving their immense talent whether it is photography of still life or capturing nature. Women photographers are increasing in number and are becoming more competitive.”
For Dalia, art has no other definition other than someone who is enjoying what they are doing.
Her first exhibition ‘Memory’ was all about a photographer’s childhood memory at her grandmother’s place in Rustaq. She shared that taking the images became a healing process for her. It was followed by the second edition held at Al Hisn Castle in March 2018.
“The second exhibition delved on people who lived there, their houses, doors, windows and so on because I feel they are talking. To me, it was examining the ghosts of the past. To get the effect, I used a technique called collaging,” Dalia shared.
One of Dalia’s images is about a rusted brown iron door with two palms marked and a line in Arabic that says, “The only love” signed off with the English Alphabet ‘N’. Then there is a light image of a woman in mask reminding you about her theme – ‘Memory’. Many people whose name starts with ‘N’ wanted to purchase the photograph.
There is yet another old house with chipping wall that has a collage of a group of girls walking together. “This house used to belong to an old lady who used to invite us. She used to look after her old husband who was blind, the whole house, did all the work and she herself was blind. But she would just hear footsteps or our voices when we walked by and then call out to invite us to have Omani Kahwa.
She would say, ‘Qarbu, Qarbu,’ meaning come closer, come closer and have your coffee. It was very touching for me to be in front of her house. She is no more. Her name was Khadeeja.”
Today, Dalia has ventured into street photography where she has more fun.
“Street photography is not an easy task because it involves people. A photographer at first might be shy about taking these pictures but when you begin to travel and have experience, it becomes easier to capture the right photo at the right time. With time, one becomes bolder and comfortable in taking pictures of strangers. If you are in an unfamiliar country, then it is best to know more about the culture and its people, read more about the nation and learn a few words of their language,” she explained.
She almost wishes her camera and lens are with her almost all the time.
“For street photography, people want to carry lighter cameras and you want to capture the moment at the same time do not want people to see you. It has to be natural. So having a big gear spoils the mood. Photographers today have the right equipment,” she said.
Turkey has become one of her favourite countries for street photography.
Her advice to photographers — “Stay engaged with photography because if you do not use it, you will lose it. Being busy with exhibitions and other things can kill the passion for photography and that is not fine. It is a technique and you have to read about it as was practice it because it is the practice that leads us to success.”
To budding photographers, Dalia said, “Keep faith, stay strong. There might be challenges on the way. Practicing is the only way to succeed. Try different styles until you find your own image. I am an abstract person and am not into competition. I see art as an open space for everyone. Believe in yourself and find yourself,” concluded Dalia al Bassami.