“There is a special kind of resilience and beauty in those tucked-away spots of life,” said Amira Al-Sharif. The Saudi-born but Yemeni-raised photographer has, for years now, documented life in her adoptive country — a country that has been at war since 2015. Her photographs paint a picture of love and war at a time when the two have become intimately intertwined.
While other photographers might see only destruction, starvation and death, Al-Sharif looks for the beauty that might offer glimmers of hope for a better future. “I want you all to see the true beauty of my suffering country,” said Al-Sharif, who is one of 19 contributors to the forthcoming Penguin book on Arab women reporters Our Women on the Ground, edited by Zahra Hankir.
Al-Sharif first got a taste for photography when she was 8, using her father’s Polaroid camera to document how he built their home in Yemen. She was hooked — so much so that her parents have few photos of her as a child, as Al-Sharif often kept the camera for herself.
While she has made a living as a fixer for foreign journalists, she also finds the time to focus on her own projects, including a few that center on Yemeni women. “This country is full of stories of amazing, inspiring, wonderful women in the shadows,” she said.
Al-Sharif’s images show the struggle and courage of these women at a time when their lives have been upended by the war. Her images show that life goes on amid destruction and death. By choosing to focus on that optimism, which is often represented in her work through the lives of a younger generation, she is highlighting her own delusions toward the current political and military leaders in this conflict. “For me, the most dangerous impact is the killing of the intellectual skills that could be used to build a new Yemen,” she said of the war. “Despite its various ideological, political and sectarian differences, Yemen is a land of peaceful coexistence.”
Being a female photographer in Yemen has its advantages and inconveniences. She has been able to get access to places and people she would not usually have access to, she said. Yet there are times when it’s still difficult for her to do her work, especially in places where women are simply not allowed to go, such as certain mosques or sporting events. “We also can’t take photographs at night, as women rarely leave their homes in the evening in Yemen,” she told In Sight.
Even if she was recently forced to leave Yemen for Beirut, it hasn’t deterred her from telling her country’s stories — in the hope that an international audience will pay attention. “I have lived in many countries, and I marvel at the Yemeni people and the way they are trying to survive the hard times and still keep their hearts high,” she said.
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
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