Zaid Al Obaidy (b.1991) is a photographer from Mosul. When he was a child, his father taught him to take pictures with black and white, 16mm film. Today, he experiments with abstract photography and documents the heritage, destruction and daily life in his city.
After ISIS’s take over of Mosul in 2014, Al Obaidy and his family moved temporarily to Baghdad. There, he developed the series Souls II, which he presented at the Ruya Foundation’s exhibition ‘Calling Calouste: New Iraqi Photography’ (2016) at the Gulbenkian Building, Baghdad. “The artistic scene in Baghdad is much more developed than in Mosul. Artists in Baghdad welcomed and encouraged me. I took part in exhibitions, contributed to books and collaborated with artists,” says Al Obaidy, “in Baghdad, you can be recognised for your work as an artist.”
Focusing on human movement, light and change, Al Obaidy experiments with the exposure and digital renderings of photographs, to the extent that only the bare details of his subjects can be discerned. “When I look at photography, or when I take photograph, I am most struck by light and shadow. In my images, I want to create spaces that are never too dark or too bright.”
“I want to capture movement and moving figures. At the same time, I want viewers to be moved, to think and be engaged when they look at my work,” he says. In doing so, Al Obaidy introduces the notions of time and speed to these captured moments.
I want to create spaces that are never too dark or too bright
Before leaving Mosul, he often walked around and photographed the city’s historic quarters. “At the time, people in Mosul weren’t interested in the city’s heritage,” says Al Obaidy. “Now that so much has been destroyed, they are grateful that I have all these pictures.”
He returned to Mosul in September 2017 where he is developing new work. “I’m photographing people, daily life, the destruction and peace being restored to the city,” he says “In Mosul, people do not trust photographers. But today I’m better known as a photographer which allows me to walk around and take pictures, free from suspicion.”