Meet Saudi Photographer Tasneem Alsultan

Tasneem Alsultan

Known for her work on gender and social issues in Saudi Arabia, American-born, UK-educated Tasneem Alsultan is an emerging female Saudi photographer to definitely know about. At just 32 years of age, Alsultan is already leaving her mark in the region and internationally, selected last year by British Journal Photography among best 16 emerging photographers to watch, and PDN’s 30 photographers to watch in 2017.


“Will our hands be famous tomorrow?” They asked after I showed them the images. #riyadh #saudiarabia #nytassignment

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As a freelance investigative photojournalist, she has covered a breadth of pertinent topics such as the first women’s voting and elections in Saudi Arabia (for National Geographic), and she delves into more personal stories as well, such as her commercial work on Saudi weddings, having documented more than 120 of them across the globe. In 2016, her wedding photography was featured in National Geographic.


Sarah, designer "I don’t really believe in democracy, because it’s impossible for one size to fit all. But I do believe in the 'pursuit of happiness' — that every person and every culture has their own interpretation of happiness and that they’re all valid. In the US, I think that’s become warped into 'your pursuit of my happiness,' and people think that unless you live like they do, you’re unhappy and oppressed and you need to be saved. It’s condescending and patronising, and it gets tiring to be on the receiving end of all that pity and insecurity, like I need to validate them by wanting what they have. . When Trump won the election, I was devastated. I felt like Islamophobia had won, Daesh had won, and now we were seeing the new world order. But when he put the ban in place, my feeds were suddenly filled with images of people protesting at airports, lawyers camping out, and this massive display of support and love that I’d never seen or felt before. There was even a Muslim call to prayer in airports, and people supported them praying in public. I was blown away, and I’m grateful that Trump made that possible." A few months ago, Sara Albassam and I interviewed 12 Saudi women and asked their opinions on President Trump. Link on bio for the rest of the interview. #saudiarabia #everydaymiddleeast #dhahran #tasneemalsultan #everydayeverywhere @refinery29

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Oaybidah Aludaini – known as Um Ahmed shows her handmade jewellery, that's inspired by Bedouin textiles “This work represents my roots, because I learnt this craft through my mother, aunts and grandmother who taught me how to weave with beads, as well as make tassels and macramé,” She has spent the last year alongside her daughter and granddaughter, to produce a contemporary range of beautifully crafted tasselled earrings and necklaces. A mother of nine children with close to 50 grandchildren, the master artisan proudly displays and sells her work at fairs across the Kingdom. “My life has changed a lot since meeting the Turquoise Mountain team. It makes me proud to know that women in faraway places are going to be wearing pieces that were handmade by me,” she says. She became her family’s main breadwinner after her husband passed away. Story published in this months Harpers Bazar Arabia magazine. Photos: @tasneemalsultan Words by Alex Aubry @turquoisemountain @harpersbazaararabia #riyadh #saudiarabia #everydaymiddleeast #everydayeverywhere #harpersbazaar #tasneemalsultan

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On the topic of marriage, she has also worked on a project entitled “Saudi Tales of Love,” which explores the complex experiences and realities of marriage, divorce, and widowhood in the Kingdom through the eyes of Saudi women. This series was partly influenced by her own marriage at the age of 17, in which she lived “separately as a single parent for the last six years of an unhappy” decade-long marriage. Her story eventually ended in divorce.

Speaking to TIME last year, she explained her interest in documenting the lives of Saudi women in the context of marriage, saying, “We’re like everyone else the way we want and have ambitions and fall in and out of love, but in the end we have these constraints and the struggles that we have overcome, that we want people to know.”


Nouf, communications: "There are several different stereotypes of Americans: the redneck, the Wall Street banker, the techie. There are so many because the U.S. is widely available in the media that it’s hard to have one single image of what an American is. There aren’t different portrayals of Saudi women in the media, but we’re just as diverse as they are...America is a strange and mysterious place to me because it’s so big. The town I’m from is relatively small, and you know everything and everyone. It would be intimidating to feel like you’re in the middle of a city where you don’t know anyone." A few months ago, Sara Albassam and I interviewed 12 Saudi women and asked their opinions on President Trump. Link on bio for the rest of the interview

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Alsultan is also member of the Rawiya Collective, an all-female Middle Eastern collective of photojournalists founded in 2009 that is changing the way the world views the region through their work. According to, the “collective began tackling stereotypes with their work, focusing on the depiction of social and political issues that they found lacking nuance and context in media coverage of the Middle East.”


At Sleysla, a craft cooperative in the port city of Jeddah, 16 women sit in focused silence as they solder, pierce and thread a variety of metals, stones and beads at a recently established workshop. Occasionally, a murmur or laughter will break the silence when someone cracks a joke, as they meticulously craft intricate bracelets, earrings and necklaces. These artisans-in-training are part of a larger network of women spanning continents, thanks to a new partnership between Sleysla and the international NGO, Turquoise Mountain, together with the nancial support of Alwaleed Philanthropies. Through their collective efforts, they are working together to reimagine the future of philanthropy at a time of unprecedented humanitarian need across the world. Story published in this months Harpers Bazar Arabia magazine. Photos: @tasneemalsultan Words by Alex Aubry @turquoisemountain @harpersbazaararabia #riyadh #saudiarabia #everydaymiddleeast #everydayeverywhere #harpersbazaar #tasneemalsultan

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Thank you @worldphotoorg & @Sony for an eventful week! ・・・ Tasneem Alsultan has won 1st place in @Sony @WorldPhotoOrg Professional division's Contemporary Issues category with her project "Saudi Tales of Love" An exhibition in London of all the winning and shortlisted work from the 2017 @Sony World Photography Awards, along with rarely seen images by British photographer @martinparrstudio , will run at @SomersetHouseLondon, from 21 April – 7 May. #SWPA The project questions the necessity of marriage in relation to personal significance and love, and Tasneem has used the project to follow, document, and explore the stories of Saudi women from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. #sauditalesoflove #saudi #tasneemalsultan

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 This ambitious photographer and mother (of two girls) has lived her life across continents. She was born in Arizona, completed the majority of her early schooling in the UK, and returned to the Kingdom at the age of 16. She received her undergraduate degree from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, and holds a master’s in social linguistics and anthropology from the US.

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