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The Post-Photographic Image

Artist Blog by Eman Ali

Visual storytelling is at the core of who I am. Whether I'm working with archival material, photographing with my camera, or exploring the fascinating power of AI, each tool becomes a vessel for my creative expression. Lately, I've been particularly captivated by the potential of AI technology and its ability to reshape the way we tell visual stories. Over the past eight months, I've immersed myself in exploring AI's possibilities, eager to see how it can expand my artistic journey. As I delve deeper, I am constantly amazed by its potential to reveal a deeper understanding of our reality and expand our consciousness. It's a journey of discovery, a constant exploration of the unseen, and an opportunity to gain new insights into the intricacies of our world. Each experiment I undertake reveals new dimensions that challenge my perceptions and unlock a universe of creative possibilities. AI has now become an integral part of my storytelling toolkit.

Reimagining forgotten moments from the past, those fragments lost to the passage of time, is the current focus of my work with AI technology. The allure of absence, the traces of what once was, and the act of remembrance inspire me to construct modern archives that revive these tales and grant them new life. While rooted in reality, my AI creations transcend the ordinary by delving deeper, reshaping them to encapsulate their very essence.

"Banat Al Fi'9a (The Silver Girls)" marks my initial venture into AI-assisted storytelling, released earlier this year. It serves as a preface, a glimpse into a larger project I am currently immersed in that will culminate in a book.

Through this collection of images, I transport viewers to an imaginary world where two young women defy the oppressive rule of Sultan Said bin Taimur and the cultural norms of 1960s Oman. This visual series captures an era known as the "dark ages," a time when progress was stifled, and everyday objects like radios, bicycles, and sunglasses were forbidden.

The two protagonists embark on a surreal journey through the country, a time when travel itself was a challenge. Despite the obstacles, they move with grace and fierce determination, engaging in activities that transcend the conventional expectations for women of their era. Their artistic expressions are set free, and they chase their dreams with an intense passion that permeates the narrative with a dreamlike quality.

As the story unfolds, we are transported into a world where the traditional silver jewelry of Omani culture takes on new life. The silver is reimagined as a retro-futuristic material, coating the daily activities of the two women and symbolizing the liberation that women would come to experience in the future.

The series is reminiscent of a fairytale because I want to capture the magic of childhood - a time of wonder, innocence, and boundless potential. It exudes a whimsical and fantastical quality that perfectly complements this theme. The narrative centers around two young girls on a quest for self-discovery and empowerment, much like the heroines of traditional fairy tales who overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. Moreover, the work imparts a moral lesson that underscores the importance of pursuing one's dreams and staying true to oneself. Inspired by my personal experiences and imagination, I blend fact and fiction to offer a nuanced perspective. I also draw inspiration from women artists like Ana Mendieta, Judy Chicago, Lynda Benglis, and Manal Al Dowayan, infusing their spirit into the characters' journey of self-discovery.

While AI technology has made significant strides, creating images that replicate real-life remains a challenge but we are getting very close! AI models can only rely on the information they were trained on and their algorithms, resulting in distorted body parts and unsettling images. I personally love these imperfections and, in my work, I choose to embrace the uncanny rather than striving for photorealism. My goal is to elicit emotions through my images, and realism is not always necessary to achieve this.