Submit Saturdays: Photographer Yumna Al-Arashi on how her hobby became her profession

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Welcome to Submit Saturdays, a year long series of articles in partnership with Squarespace. Squarespace. Be it a professional work website, a shop, a social enterprise or a site that hosts a personal project, Submit Saturdays will showcase the work of creatives around the world who use the online platform Squarespace. This is a great new opportunity to share your projects and ideas with our readers. 

Photographer Yumna Al-Arashi mixes together landscape photography with documentary elements and focuses more on the story an image tells rather than the aesthetics. Yumna studied international politics with a focus on the Middle East at The New School in New York, and this knowledge has informed her photography with several of her projects having been based in Yemen and other parts of the Middle East. Yumna has also travelled to Jamaica, California, Paris and elsewhere for her personal work and commissioned projects for places including Dazed, i-D, VSCO and Samsung. Here the photographer tells us why she likes incorporating travel into her practice and what she enjoys about editorial photography.

How did you start out as a photographer?

I started by taking photos of my daily life as a way to document time. I used to be a huge blogging nerd, so it made sense that there was always a camera in my hand. Photography became the way I told stories, and eventually shifted into my profession and art. 

How would you describe your style?

I feel my style is honest and emotional. 

Your projects have taken you to various parts of the world – what does travelling to new places do for your practice?

As I said, I use photography as a way of telling a story. My experiences are translated with photographs, it’s almost like the people viewing my work can experience any place I visit the same way I did. This also applies to the people I photograph. You see the person I see. 

When taking a photograph, what do you focus on?
I’m drawn to the light, beauty, and the emotion of a moment. 

Can you tell us more about your series, RiseUp Jamaica?
I was working with MarleyNatural – they commissioned me to visit the island and document the initiatives they support through their philanthropic efforts on the island. These included The Oracabessa Fishing Sanctuary, FarmUp, and Golden Valley. This series depicts the working people of Jamaica – how they are in symbiosis with the land, even as climate change effects their livelihood.

You’ve worked with some great publications in the past, what do you enjoy about doing editorial work?
Editorial fashion work combines so many things I love. It’s building a fictional story, using a talented team and creating pretty things that one can conceptualise beforehand. It’s totally different from documentary work, but it’s so much fun.

What far away place will your work take you to next?
Who knows ;) That’s the beauty of the work I do! 

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About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.

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