Nikon presents: Alia Ali on Re-imagining Photography | Make don’t take, engage, don’t capture

Saturday 13 May 2023
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Screening Room

As a Yemeni, Alia Ali grew up in a culture where the camera was considered a weapon, and the act of photography was a threat which divided people and implemented a harsh border between east and west. It was a tool that drew a barrier between those who had power to define a gaze, and those from whom that power was removed. Eventually the camera, like many things, is what one makes of it. For example the language around it— the verbs, the actions and the roles we set of those who engage with it or are engaged by it— defines those with agency and those from whom agency is removed. In her presentation at this year’s PhotoLONDON, Ali will be redefining the roles we play as photographers, sitters, and viewers. She will be sharing her experiences as well as photographic tips of how she continually strives to strike a balance of power among the various roles engaged in the making of a photograph. Join us in re-imagining the art of photography and its power to create more socially engaged, accessible and powerful narratives through our various lenses.

Free Talk




Alia Ali (Arabic: عاليه علي // Sabean: ‎ |) is a Yemeni-Bosnian-US multi-media artist. A child of migrant linguists, Ali has traveled to sixty-seven countries, lived in and between seven, and grown up among five languages. Working between language, photography, video, textile, and installation, Ali’s work addresses the politicization of the body, histories of colonization, imperialism, sexism, and racism through projects that take pattern and textile as their primary motif. Textile, in particular, has been a constant in Ali’s practice. Her strong belief that textile is significant to all of us, reminds us that we are born into it, we sleep in it, we eat on it, we define ourselves by it, we shield ourselves with it, and eventually, we die in it. While it unites us, it also divides us physically and symbolically. Her work broadens into immersive installations utilizing light, pattern, and textile to move past language and offer an expansive, experiential understanding of self, culture, and nation.

Ali’s research and practice are also informed by discourses of criminality, Yemeni Futurism, and feminist theory, all of which are tools to unpack practices of refusal and rupture. Ali calls upon oral histories to conceptualize these narratives, while reflecting on contemporary circumstances, in her native land Yemen, her adopted land the United States and the endless places and people that continue to inspire her. Ali is currently expanding her practice by drawing on stories from Yemen including the nostalgic past of Queen Belquis of Saba (also known as the Queen of Sheba). By investigating histories of the distant past, she addresses the realities of the dystopian present in order to carve out spaces for radically imagined possibilities for the future in what has evolved to be Yemeni Futurism.

Ali is a graduate of Wellesley College and the California Institute of the Arts. She lives and works in and between New Orleans, Paris and Jaipur. Ali is the recipient of the prestigious ARTSY Vanguard Award (2021-22) and is NIKON Global Ambassador.