The Essence of Jeddah: Discover the blend of tradition and modernity through Saliha Al Essa's lens

The Essence of Jeddah: Discover the blend of tradition and modernity through Saliha Al Essa's lens

It takes a special kind of talent to shoot stirring architectural photos with a phone, something Jeddawi Saliha Al Essa manages to do beautifully
19 February 24
Al Balad, Jeddah: Saliha Al Essa Image source: IG: s.alessa

Saliha Al Essa’s work offers a window into the dynamic culture, rich history, and breathtaking architecture of her hometown, Jeddah.

Al Essa's art perfectly portrays the city's fusion of tradition and modernity – whether it’s capturing the delicate beauty of Al Balad, a historical part of Jeddah listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or the vibrant Jeddah Art Promenade.

A talented photographer, her work, which sheds light on a deeper understanding of design, experiences, and emotional resonance of spaces, creates a visual narrative that celebrates the distinct nature of the cosmopolitan city by the Red Sea. 

What got you interested in photography? How long have you been doing it for? 

I’ve loved photography ever since I was young. I used to lug my camera around, snapping photos literally everywhere I went, making special memories. But little did I know it would turn into a profession I truly enjoy. I’ve been taking pictures on my phone for eight years, documenting each moment in a unique way through my lens.  

My family has been super supportive throughout my professional journey. I’m thankful for them for being there every step of the way, giving me constant encouragement. 

How has architecture played a role in shaping your artistic perspectives and notions about photography? 

I fell in love with architectural photography because I draw inspiration from historical areas like Al Balad. I go above and beyond, experimenting with new angles when I'm there. And the great thing is I get different results every time since each location has its own special story. My goal is to share my approach to art and photography through capturing these moments. 

Do you use specific techniques when capturing photos? 

It humbles me when I get asked if I take my photos with a professional camera. Most questions come from expert photographers who have been in the industry for years. I keep testing things out to figure out what I enjoy the most and then depict that through my images.  

Tell us a memorable story behind a picture you’ve taken.  

My mother has been a guiding influence when it comes to my architectural photography. Whenever we visit Al Balad, the atmosphere and buildings remind her of the good old times. And it’s her nostalgia that enables me to shoot photos that highlight the emotions and feelings behind those memories. 

How does Jeddah inspire you? 

Since I was born and bred here, Jeddah has a special place in my heart.

Every single spot inspires me to showcase my creativity through my lens. This is especially true now that Jeddah is constantly evolving with all the new projects that are helping to make it a tourist hub. My absolute favourite places are Al Balad and Jeddah Art Promenade. 

How do you think your photography has evolved over time? 

My photography has changed a great deal the past eight years. I make sure to pay more attention to angles, lighting, and shadows. To be honest, I keep learning every single day, it's a never-ending cycle. I also feel proud because I get to represent my city through inspiring images.  

Is there a particular photo of yours you have fallen in love with the most?  

An image can really have an everlasting effect on people, especially if it tells a story. I once took a photo of an elderly man sitting by a building in Al Balad. I managed to capture a scene that connects with my art and appreciation for Jeddah.  

How has social media played a role in shedding light on your work? 

I found support from photography communities that kept sharing my work on Instagram, encouraging me to explore different types of photography and learn more. My goal is to develop my skillset by introducing portraits into my portfolio in the future.  

All images with thanks to Saliha Al Essa