Bridging cultures: The veil as an accentuation of beauty

Sebastian Farmborough, who captured this striking photograph, recalls arriving in the Gulf from the beaches of Barcelona.

While in Saudi Arabia, he became mystified by something black and obscure out at sea. "It looked like a huge jellyfish. Then, as it approached, I realised that it was in fact a woman. It was such an intense experience that I just had to capture it for myself," says Farmborough.

"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. It actually took me a year to find the right lady. Yes, there are lots of women with beautiful eyes in the Emirates.

"The picture itself was taken at dawn on the Burj Al Arab beach. I chose that time, because I wanted extremely soft light to fall on her and the sun to reflect in her eyes. It was winter, so the sea was freezing and we were both deep into it. It was an incredible experience. The model and I had only met a couple of times prior to the shoot so we actually got to know each other as it went on, finishing with a nice hot chocolate on the beach afterwards.

The photo is entitled 'An Emerging Mystery'. "I feel as though it is extremely symbolic of muslim women's increasing prominence in the world, despite a continued mystery. The Saudi veil is so often portrayed negatively in the West that I hope to counteract that somewhat and prevent the Western public from being mislead. Many muslim women actually choose to wear it and I am more than happy to respect that."

The image marks the beginning of a project that I have been wanting to carry out for some time. I have lived Saudi Arabia for 3 years, and I can assure you that the reality is quite different. In fact, there are many things that we Westerners could actually 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 aspects of the kingdom," says Farmborough.


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