Shooting on film, also known as analogue photography, has become increasingly popular over the last few years.
For this year’s World Photography Day, we take a look into the growing community of film photographers in Qatar, and how the space was created.
Founded by local Qatar photographer, Khalid Al Ghanim, Analog Film Qatar is an Instagram page dedicated to connecting the film photography community in Qatar.
Photography has been an important part of Khalid’s life since he was young.
“I’ve been doing photography since middle school,” Khalid told Doha News, “I would take portraits of people and send it to the dean’s [office] and they would add it to the yearbook. The idea of making time stay still – that really stayed with me.”
Film photography was always a venture that Khalid wanted to take on. Seeing people pick up different hobbies during the pandemic inspired him to take a leap into the world of film photography during his time at university in Chicago.
After returning to Qatar post-university, Khalid found himself longing for a community.
“We’re all from different backgrounds, in our own little bubbles. Maybe we just want to spare a few hours in our week just to let go and do something that is therapeutic.”
With certainty that there are others who share the same interest in shooting on film, Khalid launched the Analog Qatar Instagram page with no expectations of what was to come.
“I got like 5 or 6 followers and started talking to a few people here and there who also shared a similar interest. After that, I felt like there was anticipation that something needed to happen.
“[One day] I was stuck at a signal and I saw the Gulf cinema to my right, which is a such a nostalgic place. I looked at my camera which is also nostalgic and thought to pair the two together. I went into the building and asked to come with a handful of people to take a tour and shoot. And they agreed.”
The next night, to Khalid’s surprise, people showed up with their cameras, their film, and their enthusiasm – even getting an appearance from the owner of the only film developing centre in Qatar, Khalifa Art Center.
To maintain the momentum and excitement, Khalid started the #analogqatar hashtag for people to showcase Qatar, the culture and the art scene on film. Starting with a humble few photos, the hashtag now boasts around 2300 posts.
“It’s something I’m proud of and it’s very self-sustaining. It’s not just something that I created – it’s something that all of us have created.”
As the community began flourishing, Khalid started to organise photo walks – where a bunch of photographers get together to walk around in a chosen area and take photos.
“We started going to the more nostalgic areas of Doha – capturing these places that are here today but could be gone tomorrow for the next mega project to be built.”
Here, Khalid shares one of his favourite captures from his latest photowalk.
“That was taken in the Old Al Ghanim area. That area is so crazy, and unique. I saw these guys just playing volleyball in an old area that I presume used to house a home. They turned that into a volleyball court and were just playing. That in itself is their own community – they’re playing and having the time of their life.”
The diversity of the Analog Qatar community is a huge part of what makes it so special.
“It’s not an all Qatari thing, nor an all male thing or just one thing. You see teenagers, young adults, beginners, experts, enthusiasts; people who have really helped mould this into a family. A lot of friendships have been built because of these grassroots communities. And that’s the most successful thing for me.”
Over the last couple of years, Khalid has witnessed mere beginners turn into experts through the help, guidance, and even friendship of the group. He hopes to see it continue to grow and welcome new faces.
“What matters to me when people come to Analog is that they took the initiative to try something new. If you like it – cool, and even if you don’t, no problem. Everyone is more than welcome to join.”
Meet some of the community members
Abdullatif, Qatari College Student
Started shooting on film one year ago
“By coincidence a friend told me about the club. I looked into film photography and found that it suited me very well. Film takes a lot of the normal decision-making out of the process. You just take a photo and you don’t worry about it. It’s very intuitive and feels more natural.”
Abdul Latif highlights that film photography has helped him improve his creative process.
“I used to be a perfectionist, but this has really taught me to let go and just do more.“Taking digital photos is very mundane to me now. Doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything. But with film, the limitation causes me to be more thoughtful. I’m a lot more engaged in the process.”
Through film and friendship, he shares that Analog Qatar is one of the best art communities he’s ever seen in the country.
“It’s so carefree. Everyone is there to have fun and everyone is welcoming. It’s amazing for socialising and meeting others with common interests.”
Here, he shares one of his favourite photos.
“My favourite subjects to shoot are people. This was just a hangout with me and my friends, we were out in the desert camping. And I just thought the boys looked cool. So I took the photo. They always say it looks like it could be an album cover or something.”
Mariam, Palestinian Architecture Student
Started shooting on film two years ago
“I’ve always seen old photographs on film of my family, and it gives me a feeling of nostalgia and warmth. During Covid, shooting on film started to trend again especially on social media. I decided to experiment when I found out that there’s a small community in Qatar doing it and I joined the very first photo walk at Gulf cinema.”
“Everyone is very welcoming and supportive. It’s a very small community but now it’s definitely growing, and there’s a lot more people who want to join.”
Getting used to shooting on film can be quite a learning curve, and navigating this alone can be difficult. Joining the club helped eliminate some of this for Mariam.
“Even if there’s a technical issue with your photos, there’s always something really beautiful about it. Even with the mistakes, I really like them.”
Here, she shares one of her favourite photos.
“I’m an architecture student so I love shooting buildings. But I also love shooting people, especially strangers. This building is one of my favourites in Doha. We often forget that each person has their own individual life, as complex as our own. So when I get that feeling, I try to capture it in photos.”
Alwaleed, QNL Copyright Librarian
Grew up shooting on film
Alwaleed has been interested in photography since he was 10, re-igniting his love for film photography through a disposable camera he purchased from Khalifa Art Center.
“It was an amazing feeling. I got this black and white film disposable and I was taking pictures of my family. There’s something amazing about taking photos and not knowing what you’re gonna get. You’re living in the moment, as opposed to the fast digital pace of taking photos on your phone.
The feeling of waiting for that email to come through with the scans is such a refreshing feeling.”
Alwaleed noted that the film community in Qatar continues to grow with each photowalk he attends.
“I hope that the community continues to grow, it will ensure that film photography continues for generations.”
“Most of my photographs are actually of my family. And I hope that in maybe 50 years my grandkids can find these photos one day.”
Here, he shares one of his favourite photos.
“This is the Al Wakrah metro station, but it’s a multiple exposure picture. Two pictures taken on film, and overlay them. I’ve been trying to capture memories and these glasses are like a symbol of a memory holder; capturing the essence of the metro station.”
Ahmed, Video Editor & Photographer
Started shooting on film 4 years ago
Ahmed’s journey with film photography started with a family heirloom – a camera his grandfather bought his father in the 80s.
“I saw it and I just really liked the idea of this vintage feeling, especially that I’m taking pictures using a camera that my grandfather bought for my father, and I can still produce art with it.”
For Ahmed, developing the photos himself is an added layer of therapy that shooting on film provides him.
Here, he talks about one of his favourite photos.
“This was taken outside of a house, early in the morning. When I was walking, I saw these two bikes. The interesting thing about houses is that they all have a secret. I was curious about the secret of this house. I tried to show both of the bikes so you can see there’s probably two people inside who use these delivery bikes.”