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This Jordanian Photographer is Takin’ It to the Streets

We sat down with Ali Alhasani, a Jordanian photographer who has become renowned for his poignant, story-telling photographs taken around the streets in Amman. Not too long ago, Ali’s love for street photography pushed him to create the Humans of Amman movement, inspired by the Humans of New York photo project. We asked him a few questions about his inspirations, what he hopes for the future and what he believes is the importance of sharing such images.

1) When did you start getting interested in photography?
My dad owned a video camera and a film camera for as long as we were young, so I guess I grew up seeing cameras all around. I started taking pictures with a digital camera and I loved it. And finally i studied commercial photography for a year after I finished high school. I liked being around cameras but to be honest i didn’t like what i studied. Things kept developing with me until I reached a level where I wanted to become a photographer and wanted a DSLR camera. I finally got one in December of 2012. Ever since, I’ve been taking pictures of anything until I read about street photography and I went for it. Now my only focus is on street photography. I take landscapes and photo shoots of people sometimes, but it’s not my thing. I belong in the streets with a camera.

2) Where do you find inspiration for your work?
William Klein, Vivian Maier, Boogie and so many other street photographers. I love to watch YouTube videos of street photographers walking the streets in their cities and taking pictures. It gives me a huge push to go out and take tons of pictures as well. Also it’s just enough for me to take the streets of downtown Amman with a camera. There are moments there just waiting to be captured. There are so many interesting people to take pictures of. And what I find very very fun to do is street portraits. They are a challenge and I love it when I succeed in convincing someone to take his/her picture. It’s just awesome.

3) What do you think is the goal of your photography?
I capture people practicing their daily lives, my pictures aren’t staged. Most of the people I take pictures of don’t even know. My goal is that after like 20 years someone will stumble upon my photography and think it’s a treasure of some sort. Like what happened with the legendary street photographer Vivian Maier. It’s not that I want fame (although i wouldn’t mind it), it’s that I want to have a role in documenting peoples lives in my time. I’m capable of doing so, so I’m doing it.
I just want to add that I hate how people here in Amman are so “camera-phobic” — I wish someone would welcome the idea of street photography. I once got into this fight because I took pictures of an old man. Some guy attacked me claiming that I was giving a bad image of the country. I also get cussed at sometimes and there’s harassment from cops thinking i’m taking pictures of police stations and sensitive buildings for “terrorism purposes”.

4) Do you think photography in the Middle East is developing? Do you find lots of inspiration in Amman?
Everyone has a camera nowadays. Even my grandmother has a camera. This isn’t a bad thing. Let people take pictures as they please and who stands out so be it. I would like to think that I’m one of very few photographers who have the courage to walk the streets without any permit and just take pictures of people. A lot of times without them even knowing. I didn’t study street photography, I didn’t get into contests. I don’t like to go out in groups. I go out alone and have loads of fun then come back home edit the pictures and showcase them. This is what I do and I love it. And yes I find lots of inspiration in the streets of Amman. There are loads of moments waiting to be captured.

5) What do you think is the goal of your photography?
I capture people practicing their daily lives, my pictures aren’t staged. Most of the people I take pictures of don’t even know. My goal is that after like 20 years someone will stumble upon my photography and think it’s a treasure of some sort. Like what happened with the legendary street photographer Vivian Maier. It’s not that I want fame (although i wouldn’t mind it), it’s that I want to have a role in documenting peoples lives in my time. I’m capable of doing so, so I’m doing it.
I just want to add that I hate how people here in Amman are so “camera-phobic” — I wish someone would welcome the idea of street photography. I once got into this fight because I took pictures of an old man. Some guy attacked me claiming that I was giving a bad image of the country. I also get cussed at sometimes and there’s harassment from cops thinking i’m taking pictures of police stations and sensitive buildings for “terrorism purposes”.

For more information: Follow Ali’s Humans of Amman page and keep up with his updates on his official Twitter page @_AHA.

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