Thu 01 Jun 2023 9:48 am - Jerusalem Time

Suzanne Baaqil: The first professional Saudi Arabian female photographer...art, creativity and commitment

She was confidently walking around the corners of the 32nd Arab Summit in Jeddah and taking unique and distinctive video clips of the press conference that brought together the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, during the recitation of the closing statement of the summit. She is Susan Salem Baaqil, the first female photographer. A Saudi woman professionally photographed, and even the first professional Arab photographer with a long experience of more than 37 years, and she is the first female photographer to photograph the feelings of Hajj from a helicopter in 1426 AH.

The atmosphere of the Arab summit that brought together most of the leaders and leaders of the Arab world in Jeddah was distinct, as it attracted senior politicians, analysts, writers, journalists and photographers who rarely meet in one place, eagerly awaiting the results and repercussions of this summit on their countries and the peoples of the region.

They exchanged conversations, personal cards, concerns and problems in the profession and the country from which they came.

During the long wait, (Jerusalem) met the specialized photojournalist of great fame, Susan Salem Baaqil, who participated in many local and international exhibitions, and won more than 47 local and international awards, such as the first prize for the Prince Sultan bin Salman Award for Photography in the Kingdom and the Gulf, and was accredited as a photographer for women The White House and celebrities during their visit to Saudi Arabia by the US Embassy in Riyadh, who is a photographer for Reuters International Agency, as well as the Thomson International Agency, as honored by the President of the Republic of Italy, Giorgio Napolitani, and this was the first honor for an Arab artist from a foreign government.

Baaqil is a photographer with a keen eye. She does not take pictures haphazardly, but rather chooses the most comprehensive and expressive angle of the event, then takes the picture with a high degree of clarity and dimension. She told (Jerusalem) that photography is an art, to master it you must love it, so I love my work.

Baaqil is a woman from a conservative family, born in Jeddah, Makkah Governorate, in 1958 AD. Experience and professionalism in photography spanning more than 37 years. She studied the art of photography at the University of Miami, Florida, USA, graduated in 1983 AD, and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Photography. Thirty years and still standing in Jeddah, equipped with the best and latest digital photographic production equipment to create a depth of wonderful artistic touch.

Baaqil said, “I opened the first women’s center for digital professional photography training in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah, and I established it under the name (Informed Creativity for Professional Photography).

During the meeting with the distinguished Saudi photographer, there were Arab and international delegations, including an Italian delegation asking about the final statement, so I was amazed and amazed by her response in Italian fluently. Baaqil said: “I can speak four languages, which are (Arabic – English – Italian fluently – Eritrean) and I am also fluent in a fifth language, which is the language of The image, and the meanings it expresses, whether across the Gulf, the Middle East, or the whole world, as the image in itself expresses the culture that characterizes the state or personality without the need for a translator. It is a rich and modern language that everyone needs because of its important role in human life as well. The image contributes to building bridges of understanding between peoples and cultures.

Regarding the training aspect, Baaqil said: "Through my role in community service, many courses and programs in photography were organized to teach female students, and this center also implemented training for women and some of the orphans who joined it.
Baaqil has won more than 175 Arab and foreign awards. It also has international participation, registration and service of authentic heritage and costumes, and has held exhibitions where it has traditional costumes from all regions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and participations in a number of countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America.

The photographer, Baaqil, has a distinguished personality, calm, balanced, confident in her abilities, and committed. She said that I am a professional, pioneer, self-made, ambassador and servant of my country and religion, and I also serve humanity through the art of photography and heritage. As thousands of characters were portrayed in traditional and heritage costumes in several international places, the two expressions won their admiration and love.

Baaqil added: "I was able to reach segments of the local and international communities through photography, whether they were community institutions or individuals, and I transferred the culture of our Arab society to international societies, and I was also able to send positive messages about the Islamic community, and I also transmitted the Saudi popular culture in some Western societies." Such as Britain, Italy, America, Norway, India, Korea, Brazil, Germany, Malaysia, Turkey, Japan and Indonesia, all of this with the love of giving to religion, homeland and Arabism.
In response to a question about the most important publications, Baaqil said: "I have several publications, including the book" A Letter from the Arabian Peninsula 2007, translated into English and German, and the publication of the Hadramout Encyclopedia of the Land of Civilization, the first encyclopedia of its kind in 3 volumes 2016 and the book of King Abdulaziz 2010, in addition to paintings, photos Rare to the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah, Islamic art and spirituality over the years. I also made a documentary film about new Muslims, and a comedy film (Aunt Khairiah), filmed, edited and directed in 2012.

Regarding the most important exhibitions in which I participated, Baaqil said: "I have held several international and local exhibitions, and my works are displayed in the Victor & Albert Museum in London, Canada and Italy, and my works have received great Arab and Western appreciation. My works are sold in international auctions, for charitable and commercial reasons, in (Christie's) British CHRISTIE'S of London, and the President of the Republic of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, honored me and named me "The Knight and awarded her with the Golden Star of Solidarity." This is the first honor from a foreign government for an Arab artist!

I won the first prize, Prince Sultan bin Salman Award for Photography in the Kingdom and the Gulf, for its value in appreciating and highlighting the efforts made by the people of the Kingdom and honoring talent and creativity in the field of photography.

She added that the focus of the award is / the pioneers of photography in the Kingdom. Dedicated to individuals who have provided great services to the homeland through their work in the fields of photography. I also accompanied the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, may God have mercy on him, during his historic visit to Italy and the Vatican in the civil delegation by representing the Kingdom with pride and pride in it and conveying the true image of society and a living example of women Professional and self-made Saudi Arabia, and at a sublime invitation from King Abdullah to film the International Dialogue Conference in Madrid, Spain, under the auspices of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, may God have mercy on him, and the Spanish King Carlos in 2008.

Susan documented the Arab Summit Conference in Riyadh and recently in Jeddah, the APEC Conference and the Dialogue Conference in Makkah, and she was the only woman in the conference! She is the first to photograph through (helicopter) the helicopter since 2002 for the Grand Mosques in Mecca and Medina, and to document the Hajj season annually.


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Suzanne Baaqil: The first professional Saudi Arabian female photographer...art, creativity and commitment