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Capturing the character of a city

Llewellyn Flores


Every city has a character. But discovering that requires attention: that of its residents and visitors.

The initiative, SeeMyCity, reminds people that character evolves and grows: that there are different facets of this character. One of its goals is to inspire residents and visitors to see, explore, appreciate and share their city.

"SeeMyCity is about engaging people living in the cities making people in the streets see their city and make them love it," says SeeMyCity founder and manager Marianne Hope. Marianne is a freelance family and lifestyle photographer who also teaches photography and takes iPhoneography classes.

"It's a mobile phone only concept," she says."We show people how to take better photos using cellular phones and how to see everything around them, how to see the little things and capturing them with their phones."

SeeMyCity project involves a workshop wherein participants are shown how to use different phone apps, how to use Instagram and different tips and techniques on how to take good shots with their mobile phones. The contest takes off thereafter. Participants can submit as many entries as they wish by posting the images they've taken to their (public) Instagram account and tagging the contest hashtag in the images' caption.

SeeMyCity has already engaged city residents and tourists in four cities including Doha, SeeMyDoha, which is already in its second year. SeeMyDoha2015 had three main categories: Doha in Motion, Colours of Doha and Lines of Doha. Mohamed Jaidah and Jaidah Group initiated and financed both the 2014 and 2015 SeeMyDoha campaigns.

Anyone can participate."The only criterion is it must be shot using a mobile phone," said Nashira Abdul Hameed. Nashira was one of the finalists of SeeMyDoha in 2014. This year, she joins the initiative as a jury member. She was also responsible for picking the pictures from the hashtag entries and putting them as 'photos of the day.'

SeeMyDoha2015, which ran from January 18 to April 18, received over 8,000 entries. Sadly there were entries that made it as finalists that were later disqualified because it showed that the images were not taken with a mobile phone."People who are actually into photography can make it out they can see the source," Nashira said.

One of the finalists for Motions of Doha is a picture of a dhow at the new souq in Al Wakra. The shot was taken by Rocio Fueyo."I'm not a photographer but I've been doing photography for a long time with a reflex camera," she said."Normally I don't take pictures of anything but buildings and architecture but that day I felt like taking this picture and the composition was nice so I submitted it." She has submitted several entries for Lines of Doha."But I was awarded finalist for this," she said.

Learning to pay attention to things we normally bestow just a glance to, is one of the skills taught in the workshops. It is also one of the factors that brought SeeMyCity into existence."I noticed how happy I got by noticing things that I didn't notice before. It made me realise I can see things I didn't see before," relates Marianne."You always have your mobile phone with you. You can always take the shot and not miss anything."

Capturing these 'things' and posting them on Instagram was basically how SeeMyCity started."Any place I visit I post a picture and tell about it and I get comments like. 'Oh we want to go there,' 'This is beautiful,' or 'Where is it...' people wanted to know more so I started thinking, it's like promotion," she said.

There is also what is called the 'moment shot', which is easier to capture with a mobile phone. Marianne's photograph titled 'Mysterious Lines' displayed at the exhibition is an example."I was walking around with my mobile phone and I saw this bird sitting there and I just clicked," pointing at what seems like the birds shadow, she said,"Later I saw this is the shadow of a different bird somewhere else a mystery. So this is the kind of pictures, I don't think you can actually take with a normal camera, because you can't plan it, it's a moment shot. This kind of explains the mobile photography part."

She adds that with a mobile phone, the photographer can concentrate on the composition."You don't have to do the technical stuff you do with the big camera." Mobile phone cameras are also getting better and better."If you work with it, you can get really good and get fantastic shots with it."

SeeMyDoha2015 exhibition is being held at Souq Waqif Art Centre and will run until June 3.

Cover caption: SeeMyDoha2015 finalists (Clockwise) Under a Qatari sky by @Kairos_catcher, SeeMyArt by @lovetravelart, Some people feel the rain, others just get wet by @jisheedabdulkader, Geometric equilibriium by @mystapaki, A walk through Mona Hatoum artwork by @mohammedalemadi, Memories of Doha by @danrubin, Reflection in Action by @mmuslim, Lined up by firossyed


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