This Photography Project Is Changing Perceptions Of The Middle East – One Image At A Time

29 August 2019
One Image At A Time, Photography, Social Media, Middle East

A social media movement dedicated to real life around the world

In 2012, Peace Corps volunteers Peter Di Campo and Austin Merrill happened upon an idea. A way to strip away the cliché and stereotype of life in Africa delivered by rolling news feeds and to tell simple, everyday stories. Real life, documented. The Everyday Project was born.

So, with iPhone’s in hand the two documented daily scenes from life and posted them on Instagram using an account called @everydayafrica. The account was a hit – it currently boasts 397k followers – and quickly spawned similar accounts.

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Al-Ahmadi was founded in 1946 with the discovery of oil in the south of Kuwait. Centered around the oil industry, the town served the growing needs of the newly hired personnel of the Kuwait Oil Company. Conceived by British architects and city planners, Al-Ahmadi represented a new concept in urban design. Remote though it was from the rest of the cities, Al-Ahmadi thrived as a self-contained suburban town, inviting many curious visitors throughout the years to eye its unique build. In the center of the town was the souq (market) built in 1961, which served as a vital point of exchange and interaction for its residents. Fifty years later, in 2011, the market closed its doors. Times had changed, many of the expats had left Kuwait as the country nationalized much of its oil industry, and as the area emptied out, the market gradually lost its relevance and became abandoned. Nestled in a circular corner lot the size of several football fields , the old souq boasted several dozen shops housed in two separate and large structures of concrete topped with a lattice wall that ventilated and illuminated the space. Shops — from opticians to dry cleaners and even bicycle shops — were lined side by side in rows of approximately 10. What struck me on my first visit to the Souq in 2015 were the store signs; each sign, drawn by hand, displayed a variety of Arabic scripts including naskh, nastaʿlīq, ruq’ah, and free-hand. The signs carried information on the year in which the store opened, mostly ranging from 1965 to 1974, and the names of the Palestinian, Indian, Iranian and Syrian shop-owners. In 2013, the National Council of Culture, Arts, and Letters (NCCAL) announced plans for the restoration of this historic market into a cultural platform. Today, as the market lays empty and in ruins, these store signs act as the only relic of the market’s legacy in what once was a thriving town." Photo by Huda Abdulmughni @takenbyhuda #everydaymiddleeast #everydaykwt #everydayeveeywhere #kuwait

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At @everydaymiddleeast you’ll find a picture of a beach in Gaza, with hundreds of Palestinian families enjoying the cool water during a scorching hot summer’s day. On the account @everydayafghan there is a picture of a beautiful woman, walking through a market in Kabul Province, holding her son’s hand. Her hijab loosely tied overhead, her clothing fashionable – changing the perceptions of the life of women in the region.

“A friend and former colleague of mine started Everyday Middle East,” explains Elie Gardner, a photojournalist and filmmaker who also founded @everydaylatinamerica along with three friends while living in Peru. “Through her, I came to know about the project. The perceptions of some editors and publishers from mainstream media are formed by long-existing stereotypes of people and regions. But these views are often completely surface, one-dimensional – and are then perpetuated by mainstream media.”

The reaction to the everyday project had also surprised the founding members, who after time realised that this [expansion] is exactly what they had intended. They wanted people to apply the idea in whichever part of the world they were.

In that spirit of excitement Di Campo and Merrill teamed up with Instagram and worked to bring the founders of several Everyday accounts to the New York Annual Photoville festival to exhibit images. It was there that they decided to come together as one movement.

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A gentle soul with a big smile, Zahra is a young and talented illustrator. Born of a Kuwaiti mother and a stateless (Bidoon) father, Zahra is now a US citizen. At the tender age of 7, her father moved her and the family from Kuwait to New Mexico in search of a better life for his children. The decision paid off; Zahra was able to pursue her talent for drawing first in the US and then in Paris where she attended Ecole Emile Cohl. Today, Zahra has a studio in Harwood Art Center in New Mexico where she continues to draw and exhibit her whimsical and often biographical works. She makes a yearly trip to Kuwait to visit her mom and her family; thanks to these trips, she started to reconnect with her birth country, developing friendships and a sense of belonging. In recognition of her talent, she was recently granted an artist’s residency at the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Center.—- (The stateless (Bidoon) population in Kuwait is estimated at 100,000 individuals of which around 3,200 bidoon men are married to Kuwaiti women, yet their children are inherit the stateless title.) —-“Near the sambosa guy time stands still. My parents moved into the to far newly-built neighborhood in the late 80's when my mother was pregnant with me, and so did the Sambosa guy, Hussein. He stayed during the Iraqi invasion, and gives every, single, person an extra sambosa to eat while they give their order. He always tells me to send his hello” Photo by Huda Abdulmughni @takenbyhuda #everydaymiddleeast #everydayeverywhere #kuwait #everydaykwt

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Since its beginning the movement has extended beyond just region or city specific accounts. Now you can find accounts like @everydayamericanmuslim – launched by Zoshia Minto, aimed at drawing attention to the lives of people in America who share the same faith. It’s diversified to @everydayrefugees, @everydayextinction and @everydayclimatechange. Each account boasting hundreds of thousands of followers.

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Through visual literacy these accounts are creating awareness on some of the most important changes the human race is experiencing. No cliché, no stereotypes, just real life as it happens every day.