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At Home On The Road: Yemen Through Yumna’s Eyes

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Her range is sweeping, encompassing everything from primordial mountain landscapes to the latest boutique fashions. Her vision is equally boundless, with a liberated sense of play that illuminates human life as simultaneously idiosyncratic and archetypal. Here, photographer Yumna Al-Arashi reflects on her ongoing odysseys through her native Yemen.

 

On your road trips, do you know what you want to shoot beforehand, or are you after surprise?

Yes and no. When I am not commissioned to work on a particular story, I usually have one set up for myself. But often those stories either get a new angle or are dissolved completely because of the spontaneity of being on the road. Sometimes you can’t get what you’re looking for, or you’re totally inspired by something else and create something just based on the moments you experience. I find with all my work that I’m happiest with what I create out of spontaneity.

 

Has photographing Yemen changed your perception of it, or your sense of self in relation to it? 

Definitely. I don’t think I would have known as much about Yemen had I not had an interest in exploring, photographing, and sharing it with others. That process has taught me more than I could imagine.

 

What aspects of Yemeni life do you feel are misrepresented and want to do justice to in your work? 

I feel as though most Yemeni life is misrepresented and neglected. I don’t think many people who have no connection to Yemen know anything about it. It is so far away from the public sphere of cultures, and it’s also a vast country in so many ways, with so much culture, history, and beauty that people know so little of. My goal is to share all of that; I believe I’ve only just begun.

 

Fashion and landscape photography are disparate genres, and yet…your shots of Yemen’s topography are also so sensual. Does your work in one inform the other? 

I don’t believe my eye for sensuality is disregarded in any work I do. It is always there, always part of me and my work.

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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