Lebanese photographer Camille Zakharia and Bahraini architect Ali Ismail Karimi are engaging the local community and public spaces through art.

Launched in December 2017, Photos à la Chair, a homegrown initiative, has been bringing people from different walks of life together. It’s an art movement of sorts, where founding duo Camille and Ali collaborate with artists on the island, from painters to furniture designers and photographers, to create striking portraits.

The upcoming session will happen on February 10, with Applied Histories (@appliedhistories on Instagram) and Isa Najem (@isa.najem on Instagram) in Ain Um Huwais – in the middle of the farms in Buri area. Aside from this one, you can watch out for, perhaps, one more before the season comes to an end; monthly sessions are organised from November to March. So far, there have been 17.

Based on the discussion between the founders and participating artists, a backdrop or architectural installation is set up at a mutually agreed location. Then, the details are announced to the general public, who can visit the spot within the set time frame to get themselves photographed, chat with the artists or even simply observe.

A few occasions have seen visitors from other GCC countries. While Photos à la Chair has no reservations about welcoming artists and visitors from all over the world, the project is strictly Bahrain-based for now and is as local as local gets. The idea is to engage the community and promote a casual conversation around art. It offers an informal space, which is unlike most artistic initiatives in the Kingdom that are more formal or gallerybased. Additionally, it offers scope to highlight and promote the island’s beautiful locales, many of which are hidden gems, as people don’t know about them or don’t visit them often.

Camille produces a self-published book for each session and 2023 will have books too. The books document the project, as well as the different communities and landscapes of Bahrain. If you’re an artist who wants to collaborate, a lover of art or simply a spectator, this major cog in the local contemporary art scene is a platform you really don’t want to miss. ✤