(MENAFN -Arab News) Famous Saudi life-style photographer Dhahi Al-Ali has drifted away from photography, starting his own business-concept designing pop art canvases and other home accessories.
The photographer is known for advertisement and fashion photography in the Kingdom. He helped many local fashion brands with their look books and photo-shoots, before deciding to pursue the creation of Charisma.
Al-Ali’s brand is called Charisma, inspired from his work. “Most of my pieces are focused on the face of the model or celebrity and those faces have a certain charisma that you cannot help but notice,” he said. “You will find my work focused on Arab celebrities and movie stars as well as pictures taken from local newspapers, which I work on and change the features of and then print on the product of my choice,” he explained.
Al-Ali came across this idea when he noticed that many young women like to collect pop art, especially photos of the famous actress Marilyn Monroe.
“When traveling, I always come across vintage boutiques and gift shops that sell mugs, notebooks, posters, t-shirts and other products with the picture of Monroe, Madonna or Audrey Hepburn. I noticed that people love these products,” he said, adding, “I also noticed that many Saudis love snapping pictures of such items and posting them on various social media platforms. This in turn made jealous because I wanted my people to be proud of the Arabian beauty and post pictures of Arab celebrities, instead of American or European ones.”
Many people are currently designing their house in nude and pastel colors and this is what Al-Ali is trying to change. A pop of color will always make your house looks different and unique; you can change anything you want either the wallpaper, cushions or any kind of artwork, he advised.
This is what pushed Al-Ali to brainstorm and try to come up with an idea that is similar, yet different from what is available in the local market. “It took me a year to search the market, the web and art galleries in Saudi to find out if someone has already launched this concept; I was looking for a kind of art that reflects us as Saudis and as Arabs in a fun and colorful way, but sadly I couldn’t,” he said. “I decided to do something about this and take the initiative to design a Saudi pop art brand using Saudi products, prints and labor only,” he emphasized.
Charisma features many Saudi traditional touches like the local clothing for men and women on most of the original photos. “I am using this brand to showcase our culture; I am using it as a window to show the beauty of the Saudi costume,” said Al-Ali. “I have seen many non-Saudi people buying my products as souvenirs or to add a local touch to their homes. This makes me beyond happy and proud that we are finally selling our products to other people not the other way around,” he added.
The artist explained that the creative process began with him collecting old pictures from newspapers and scanning them to his computer. “I don’t use Photoshop to edit my work, but rather I use an illustrator vector program, which gives me the opportunity to expand and enlarge as much as I can without making the picture pixilated. I also draw small details and add different photos to the original black and white photo,” he said. “I start by coloring the original photo with strong colors then I add details. It usually takes me around three days to finish one piece.
One of the pieces that Al-Ali likes most is that of famous Egyptian signer Um Kalthoom featured in Beats headphones. “I am trying to blend between old and new in a way to connect both areas and try to create something different out of a vintage piece,” he said. “I want people to be attracted to my art so I made sure there is something for everyone, and I made sure the prices are reasonable for everyone to buy and hang in their colorless living rooms,” he added.
All Charisma’s products are 100 percent Saudi; AL-Ali wanted to show that Saudi-made products are as good as any product made anywhere else in the world. “I also wanted to showcase the local product and so I took a conscious decision that if I wanted to call my products Saudi, then they had to be locally made from point A to point Z and nothing in the middle,” he said. “I used local materials, accessories, fabrics and produced my whole collection here. This will guarantee a flow of work and it also means I don’t need to travel all the way to China to get a collection done,” he added.
Al-Ali tested the market by posting pictures of his own living room that he decorated with Charisma products. The response he received was what gave him the boost of confidence to sell his pieces. “I was happy to see the comments I received from people regarding my photos; as people complemented my project and asked how they could get a hold of such pieces, that was when I decided to launch my project to the public,” he said. “I never wanted to showcase my work in an art gallery, I wanted people to be able to buy it once they fell in love with it and that’s how I met the owner of a concept store in Jeddah, who encouraged me to sell my artwork in his store; and now many people have direct access to my work,” he added.
Al-Ali is looking forward to opening his own Charisma boutique, featuring more than 30 different home accessories in the same concept. He also aims to expand his brand and open in Dubai, Doha and other Arab-based boutiques.
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