Via Vogue Arabia
In Saudi Arabia today, women are excelling more than ever in the arts and creative fields, with many now taking up photography as their sole art form, building it into a career, and winning international awards along the way. Amongst these trailblazers is Saudi photographer Najla Al Khalifa, one of the most prominent names in the field today. From nabbing awards at both national and international levels, to capturing the most iconic nature, landscape, architectural, archaeological, and even abstract scenes, Al Khalifa is truly a force to be reckoned with.
A Passion Right From Childhood
Al Khalifa began her journey into photography when she was just eight years old, starting with a small camera that was given to her by her father. She used this first camera to capture photos of family gatherings, places they’d visit together, picnics, vacations, and so on. It was at this young age she also became interested in painting and visual arts, interests that later proved to be beneficial to her photography career.
As the years went by, Al Khalifa continued to pursue her interest in the arts, while also choosing to study English literature at university, going on to pursue a master's degree in the same program from King Saud University.
Awards And Honors
To date, Al Khalifa has won 42 awards and medals in international and local competitions including gold at Prix de la Photographie in Paris (PX3), making her the first Saudi woman to receive this award. She has also participated in various renowned competitions such as the IPA International Photography Awards in New York, the Sony World, Homeland In The Eyes Photographers, and the Arab-European Festival.
Amongst her most recent awards was an honorary medal presented to her by the International Photographers Union during the MOF 2015 Ibrahim Zaman International Photography Exhibition. Named after one of Turkey's most famous photographers, Al Khalifa participated in the fourth edition of the competition, in the black and white category with her picture “Khutoot.”
In 2014, Al Khalifa was chosen by "Sayidaty Magazine" as one of 40 Distinguished Saudi Women for her role in representing the Kingdom in notable forums such as Saudi Cultural Days. She was also honored by the Ministry of Culture and Information for receiving many international awards in the field of photography.
Al Khalifa has also nabbed two world prizes in the Tokyo Photography Competition, a gold in the category of ‘Persons" for her collection "My Mother: My Lord, Have Mercy Upon Them, As They Raised Me Up When I Was Little,” and bronze for her comic book “Work Is Worship.”
Participation In Salons And Exhibitions
Al Khalifa has presented her work across the globe, in cities such as Rome, Paris, Belgium, Shanghai, London, and Toronto, and her exhibition “A Thousand Lights And Lights” was hosted by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, USA.
It is also worth mentioning that Al Khalifa is a member of the International Federation of Photography and other prominent photography societies.
Most recently, Al Khalifa was presented with a medal at the Tokyo International Competition in the category of comic books for her series “Welcome to Saudi Arabia.”
Speaking on how her book came about to be, Al Khalifa said, “The idea of participating in the competition came up when my collection of pictures representing the various regions of the Kingdom coincided with the launch of the Saudi tourist visa last year under the slogan “We Welcome to the world, open doors .and open hearts.” So, I chose some pictures that reflect the cultural and environmental diversity of my country to simply portray what Saudi Arabia can offer to its visitors across the globe. The pictures include Al-Qidiya (Riyadh), Rijal Al-Maa’a (Abha), Buhayrat Al-Kasr (Al-Zulfi), Al-Qasr Al-Farid (Mada'in Saleh), and the village of Dhi Ain (Al-Baha). These seven images are only a small part of a Kingdom rich in history and diversity.”