Farah Foudeh is a Jordanian-Palestinian artist who examines the impact of images on society and aims to challenge the stereotypes surrounding the Bedouin community. Born in Nigeria, Farah has been an avid traveler all her life, and this month, we had the chance to catch her in Spain. She shared the story behind her project “Bedu”, which was recently exhibited in the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, her thoughts about tourism, and her advice to photographers who want to explore Jordan.
Gulf Photo Plus: Tell us about your project, “Bedu”. Why did you decide to explore this particular story?
Farah Foudeh: It’s a combination of reasons that have been brewing for a while. I was partly influenced by my own experiences of getting to know the Bedouin community over the years and my personal journey of breaking down the stereotype. Further on, through my work in tourism and studying the impact of photography, I wanted to show that the representation of Bedouins today has, in fact, not changed at all from when the first cameras set out to capture them.
Photography can be a very limiting tool if everyone is setting out to recreate what they’ve already seen. Looking at the bigger picture, you end up with communities whose only role is to perform for people seeking these experiences. And that is much of what the current tourism industry is built on: performance for outsiders.
GPP: Is there a common thread throughout your work, a theme that is omnipresent?
FF: I find myself drawn to topics and issues that revolve around the impact of images on people and landscapes.
GPP: You've lived in multiple countries across 4 continents, how has that played a role in your work as a photographer?
FF: It has made me very aware of how little people know of the reality others live in. We are accustomed to getting to know about a place through polar extremes of the images we see, whether it’s on the news or pictures our social circles share on social media. Both are very limiting perspectives and yet there’s a whole world behind what is photogenic and what makes a hot news headline. As a photographer, I try to highlight the limitation of the medium.
GPP: What do you enjoy doing outside of photography? Does it influence your work in any way?
FF: As unoriginal as it may sound, I enjoy traveling. Being able to travel to a place and experience an entire ecosystem unique to it is mind-blowing. I also really enjoy seeing how people travel; tourists are fascinating to watch.
Another interest of mine is art in all its forms, and I look to incorporate various mediums within my photography work.
GPP: What are you working on at the moment?
FF: I have a few projects simmering at the moment. Time is essential in my working process, and there is a lot that goes on before I pick up the camera. I’m currently in the research phase, which involves a lot of conversations with the community I intend on working with. I will be exploring similar themes of the impact of tourism and photography in changing the social landscape of a community in Jordan.
GPP: You have also been an advocate for tourism in Jordan. What would you say to a photographer who plans to visit?
FF: Jordan is a truly beautiful place and it has a variety of landscapes that are quite impressive. Jordanians are also very open to tourists and they have a lot to say, so take advantage of that and have real conversations before choosing to pick up a camera.