When Maha Alasaker’s work surfaced on our respective Facebook timelines, we automatically felt bursts of intrigue and respect for the Kuwaiti photographer. With an impressive resume of both featured and collaborative photographic works filling pages of various publications, Maha’s skills have been honed to a recognizable level by hoisting herself up to Vogue Arabia’s standards, with their recent coverage of a personal project that she holds near and dear to her heart: Women of Kuwait.
Maha, born and raised in Kuwait, moved to NYC in August 2013, and graduated from Manhattan’s International Center of Photography (ICP) in 2014. She soon after gained representation by JHB Gallery as of July 2014, and has been working like a busy bee with gallery exhibitions, freelance photography, and editorial photography since then.
“My work engages with identity and cultural issues.” She tells us, and she sees Women of Kuwait being a direct example of that ethos. Her capturing a series of everyday Kuwaiti women between the ages of 20-40 in their natural state and private environments displays the complex dimensions and variety of perspectives that come with being an Arab woman in this day and age.
“Ever since I moved to New York from Kuwait a few years ago, people have been questioning my identity, wondering how I am what I am today.” She writes in her Artist’s Statement. “These questions arise out of curiosity, due to the general social stigma placed on Middle Eastern women. The belief that women are constricted to a certain appearance, or lifestyle.”
Other than Women of Kuwait, Maha’s works have been around. Her editorial photography gig has had her published in several fashion magazines, including Vogue Italia, Material Girl, Nord Magazine, and once upon a time, our very own bazaar! She has also had work featured in numerous exhibitions in the UAE, her hometown Kuwait, and New York City. The most recent accomplishment to be proud of is Transcendence, currently showing at the Carrie Able Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.
Though we have yet to see the works displayed in Transcendence, we have no doubt that it will leave many, ourselves included, feeling a similar range of emotions that we experienced when stumbling across Women of Kuwait. After scrolling through these penetrating and powerful images, we knew we had to contact Maha to pick her brain on her artistic direction, inspiration, and life story as an Arab Abroad.
Where are you originally from?
I am from Kuwait.
Where is your family based?
My entire family lives in Kuwait.
What were the circumstances under which you left your home country?
After working as an editorial photographer in Kuwait for six years, I wanted to study more about Fine Art photography. I also wanted to learn old-school analog photography and darkroom practices. So, I continued my education at ICP, and after graduation, I decided to work here, and here we go, I’m still in New York!
What is your favorite part of your job?
Being a freelance photographer, I have a new [favorite part] every day, and get to work with someone new every day. My days are always filled with new experiences and challenges, and I love it!
What are you working on currently?
I am in the process of creating a new project, which is a continuation of my previous work “Undisclosed”.
What do you find most different about life inside and outside the Arab world?
I think [life inside and outside the Arab world] are totally different experiences: It’s not about the Arab World or the rest of the world— I believe every place you live in will touch your life in one way or another.
What do you find most different about work inside and outside the Arab world?
It’s tough here, and you need to work harder and learn fast. Building your network takes time. I am starting here from zero, but it is a rewarding feeling to challenge yourself and start over in a new place.
Where else have you lived?
I lived in Frankfurt for three months.
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
There is nothing like NYC! You leave your home with one plan and find yourself ending up with another: You can’t predict your day.
What is the worst thing about where you live?
It is competitive, and I don’t like competition.
Where will you eventually retire?
I don’t know.
Finish this sentence: In a year from now I will be…
…a new me.
Finish this sentence: When I die, I will…
…experience what death means.
Photo by Marijana Marinovic.