Failaka Island, Kuwait – About 20km off the coast of Kuwait City, tiny Failaka Island stands as a constant reminder of the Iraqi invasion a quarter-century ago.
Prior to the Gulf War, Failaka was reportedly home to about 2,000 residents, but they fled when the Iraqis invaded and most did not return. Over the years, the homes and offices they left behind have crumbled, many still scarred with bullet holes from the war.
Today, much of the island lies empty and in ruins, although a small tourism industry has emerged – with boat trips, overnight accommodations and cafes springing up on Failaka for curious sightseers. Failaka is also still used today for military exercises by the Kuwaiti army.
The last time I went to Failaka was back in 1989 so maybe it’s about time I head back there. Check out all the photos on the Al Jazeera website [Here]
When I was in London back in February I passed by the Tate to check out some of the exhibits. One of the exhibitions that was taking place there was called “Conflict, Time, Photography”. I didn’t end up seeing this exhibition since it turned out I had to get a ticket and to do that I needed to go back down to the ground floor. Problem was the escalators weren’t working that day and I had already walked up like 4 or 5 floors so really didn’t feel like going back down and up again. Anyway I basically missed out on that exhibition and now I found out Kuwait played a role in it.
The French photographer Sophie Ristelhueber exhibited her photos of Kuwait at that exhibit. Sophie traveled to Kuwait in 1991 soon after the end of the first Gulf War and took photographs of the ravaged desert. She later published 71 photos in a book called “Fait” (Fact in English) and those photos were displayed at Tate. I found the video above in which Sophie discusses the photos and in which you can get a glimpse of the photos. The exhibition ended back in March. [YouTube]
I have a huge wall in my apartment I needed to fill and wasn’t sure how. I figured I might either get some shelves or possibly a painting but I also didn’t want to pay a ridiculous amount of money for it. Originally I was looking for a specific Andy Warhol Camouflage print but after having a difficult time procuring one I decided to give up on that dream. In the end I went with a super large black and white photo from a website called Sonic Editions.
I originally found out about Sonic Editions because they had a Dave Grohl photo reenacting the old Maxell blown away guy (pictured above). All their photos are limited to just 495 prints and after flipping through hundreds of photos I finally fell in love with one, Al Pacino on the set of the movie ‘Serpico‘ in New York in 1973. The only issue was the largest size they had the photo available on the website was 60x75cm and I needed one much larger. So I emailed them and asked if they could customize a size for me, one that was 80×100 (100x120cm with the frame) and they said yes they could. They also would ship directly to Kuwait at a fairly reasonable price of around KD55.
I placed the order and around 20 days later I received the print framed. Everything about it exceeded my expectations. First the package was huge and barely fit sideways in my FJ Cruiser. Any larger and I would have needed a pickup truck probably. The frame was packaged extremely well and when I finally got all the packaging out of the way I was very impressed with the quality of the photo print as well as the quality of the frame. The workmanship was top notch and there was even a patch on the back of the frame with details of the photo including the photographers name, where it was shot, the date and the limited edition number. I was blown away at how easy it was to order and ship the photography to Kuwait and I’m now looking for another one to order for a different room.
Last week I went looking for an 18″x24″ picture frame for an artwork I had recently purchased. First place I checked was IKEA but they had European sizes which were either larger or smaller than the size I wanted it. I then decided to check other places like Pottery Barn, The One, West Elm, A2Z and Ace Hardware but none had the correct sized frame. Out of frustration I decided to ask my followers on twitter for an alternative place and was recommended to get a custom frame made. One of the locations recommended was near Avenues where I was, so I headed there straight away to see how much it would cost and how long it would take to get one made.
There were around three frame shops next to each other but I ended up choosing one which had a picture framer working. The other places looked like they just took size orders and sent them somewhere else to be made.
The reason I didn’t head to a picture framer first is because I thought it would be a complicated and expensive thing but surprisingly the process was fairly simple and affordable. I showed the picture framer the artwork, he measured it and then asked me to choose a frame which I did. He then quoted me a reasonable KD10 and told me to pick up the frame the next day.
The next day I went back, gave him the artwork and he mounted it in the frame. A very easy and simple process. The picture framer I went to was an old Lebanese or Syrian guy who according to him has been making frames for over 40 years. I’ve heard of other picture framers located next to Coops but this is the one I ended up going to and the one I’d go back to.
If you’re interested in getting a picture frame the shop is called “The Kuwait Center for the Installation of Glass and Frames” and the guys number is 99810731. Also here is the location on [Google Maps] but its easy to find, take the right turn before Sultan Center on the 4th Ring Road and the place will be on your right hand side around 200m in.
Update: Here are two more places that you can get custom frames from [Link]
Red Bull is holding their 5pics competition for the second year in a row. If you’re a photographer (amateur or professional) and want to participate, all you need to do is register with them and share what Kuwait looks like “through your eyes” by uploading 5 of your best photos.
The prizes are
First Place: MacBook Pro 15″ with Retina Display
Second Place: Fuji Film XM1 + Lens
Third Place: GoPro Hero 4
To participate or get more info about the competition, visit www.redbull.com/5pics. Submission deadline is November 26, 2014.
I’m going to start sharing some of the photos I got from my last trip to the KOC photography archive. This group of photos in this post are of the old Kuwaiti police force, I don’t have a specific date but I’d say the photos were probably taken in the 60s.
A few days ago a friend of mine on instagram posted pictures of a photo studio in Kuwait city where she was getting her picture photoshopped onto different backdrops. The very cheesy kind of backdrops with the worst photoshopping job ever. I had seen those kind of photos countless of times before but had no idea where to get them done so I asked her for directions and headed there myself.
I have no clue how she found the place but my guess is she must have just been exploring because I know that area pretty well but had never run across the studios. To find them follow these directions: If you’re walking from Salhiya, keep Caribou Coffee on your right hand side and walk straight to the area behind it. There will be a large parking garage on your left with shops underneath. Keep that building on your left and keep walking straight until you see a shawerma place on your right called Tarboush. Right after the shawerma place is corridor that takes you inside the building which is filled with shops. Walk around 20 meters until you find stairs on your left that take you down to the basement. Thats where you will find a number of these photography studios.
I opted for Foto Star Studio since they were willing to take my photo, retouch it onto a backdrop and print it for me all while I wait. The shop next door wanted an hour for example which I didn’t want to wait. Choosing a backdrop was the most difficult thing to do since they had so many options. I decided to get my photo taken first so the guy can start working on it while I look for a suitable backdrop. Next time I go back though I will do it the other way around since I realized depending on the backdrop you choose you might want to pose a certain way. I ended up going with a backdrop of a park with the popular Indian actor Chiranjeevi super imposed onto it while I’m standing next to him. It will now be my new Facebook profile pic.
The cost is fairly reasonable, originally he wanted KD1.5 but I managed to bring him down to KD1 because I wanted two photos. I actually wanted to get more photos done but he didn’t accept Knet and I only had KD2 on me so I’m definitely going back again most likely with a group of friends. Also if you’re thinking of doing this you might also want to consider taking some props with you.
I passed by Bang & Olufsen in Symphony Mall the other the night to see when they were getting the new BeoPlay A2 when I spotted a new AAB World store on the lower level. It turns out the store has been open for two months now and it’s their largest store yet. AAB World are a photography store and I’ve dealt with them on a number of occasions either for product reviews on the blog or for personal purchases.
The branch I used to frequent often was in the basement of Shamiya Coop and that location is really tiny so having this large store in my neighborhood makes things a lot more convenient. This location is so big they practically have each one of their products on display for you to check out including all their studio lights and camera stabilizers (for the movie buffs).
So if you’re interested in checking it out, they’re open from 9AM to 1PM and then again from 4PM to 10PM.
While flipping through the photos I brought back home from KOC I found these three which I loved because of the fact they look nothing like Kuwait. The first one on top I’m guessing is from the Anglo American School, the second photo is of a house in Ahmadi while the last photo from the Gazelle Club.
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