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Photos showcase US through Jordanian eyes

By Muath Freij - Jun 04,2015 - Last updated at Jun 04,2015

US Ambassador to Jordan Alice G. Wells attends the opening of the 'America Through Jordanian Eyes' photography exhibition on Wednesday (Petra photo)

AMMAN — Basem Khawaldeh is taking part in a photography exhibition in Amman where his work portrays success stories he encountered in the US with the aim of encouraging Jordanians to implement similar ideas.

“Stories like how Americans treat people with disabilities or how they deal with pavements and recycling are among the issues showcased in my photos. I tried to highlight problems and their solutions,” he told The Jordan Times at the opening ceremony of the exhibition in Jabal Amman.

Khawaldeh is among five Jordanian photographers who are showcasing their photos at the “America Through Jordanian Eyes” exhibition in Amman.

The exhibition is the artistic result of an exchange programme organised by the US embassy in Jordan in partnership with the Jordan Photographic Society, according to organisers.

The five photographers travelled to the US to photograph the culture, landscape and people.

Rasem Kilani, former president of the society, said it sent a proposal to several embassies and the US was the first to respond.

“We agreed to send five photographers to take photos in three main US cities,” he noted.

In a speech at the opening, US Ambassador to Jordan Alice G. Wells said the five photographers featured at the exhibition, which concludes on June 10, participated in one of the US government’s flagship exchange programmes and produced a “unique chronicle” of “America Through Jordanian Eyes”.

“This group of talented photographers had the opportunity to learn about American society and met many Americans from all walks of life along the way,” she said. 

“Their purpose was to tell stories, and to show the common humanity between everyday Americans and Jordanians. But when captured with the artistic eye that these photographers possess, these moments become iconic and tell the deeper stories that we often miss when visiting other countries and cultures,” the ambassador noted.

She said the photos show “sides of America that many Jordanians never see, and through the distinctive lens of someone learning about them for the first time”.

Rawan Daas, another participating photographer, said her visit to the US was about getting in touch with the people there and seeing how they live.

“My photos are a representation of how I saw this relationship between the people of the US and us... as some people had a specific idea about the Middle East back in their minds,” she told The Jordan Times.

“I am more of a street photographer. Most of my photos show street life and how people interact with the place,” Daas added.

She noted that Americans were eager to learn more about Jordan.

“We were invited to a home dinner and organisers told me that many people wanted to talk to me because I came from Jordan.”

Khawaldeh said the level of photography in Jordan is great but there are obstacles that stand in the way of photographers.

“People are still not used to the camera and many are scared of being in front of a camera,” he added, noting that limiting entry to archaeological sites to certain hours is also not helpful for photographers.

“In the US, it is allowed to take photos of any place at any time, and this helps US photographers present their culture and places to the whole world,” Khawaldeh noted.

Daas suggested bringing photographers from around the world to see Jordan through their eyes.

 

“Their photos will motivate many people to visit the Kingdom. Many of those who saw my pictures asked me ‘Where is this? ‘We want to go there.’”

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