Amira Al-Sharif is an independent Yemeni photojournalist with over seventeen years of experience documenting the beauty and suffering of her beloved country. Her work has been published in Yemeni newspapers as well as internationally with National Geographic, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. She has worked on assignments for UNICEF, UNHCR, and Oxfam, and received multiple prizes, fellowships, and nominations; from the World Press Photo Foundation, Women Photograph, the Prince Claus Fund along with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Samir Kassir Foundation and Free Press Unlimited’s “Most Resilient Journalist Award”.
In 2010, Al-Sharif studied photojournalism and documentary photography at New York’s International Center of Photography. She later returned to Yemen where she taught visual storytelling to some 300 aspiring photographers for several years. In 2013, she became the recipient of the Safirlab, a programme born in the wake of the Arab spring, designed to help young people proposing socially innovative projects in North Africa and the Middle East.
A voice for the women of Yemen
With her documentary projects and wide spread attention in international media, Al-Sharif has become a strong voice for the women of Yemen. In a country at war, where photographers are commonly men, Al-Sharif pushes back against social and cultural boundaries as she depicts Yemeni women in their daily crisis-ravaged lives. She has captured the beauty of life that goes on in the war-torn country and the women’s inspiring stories at the frontlines where the war, famine, and disease affect cities and countryside. Yemeni Women with Enduring Spirits is Al-Sharif’s long-term documentary project where she captures the beauty of life and the resilience of Yemeni women and their contributions to their communities.
- I often ask myself if people who live in peaceful countries and regions could better identify with the beautiful pictures - seeing themselves in us, their lives in ours - rather than the bloody ones that commonly inundate the international media, from Syria at present to Vietnam in the past. Amira Al-Sharif
Beauty and life in times of war
- Like people everywhere, regardless of their context of war or peace, Yemenis appreciate love and life. We, too, wish to live our loves and our lives before that unavoidable moment called “death». Amira Al-Sharif
In her works, Al-Sharif often pays tribute to the perseverance of women in her country. She highlights these women’s ambitions and insights while portraying the beauty of their suffering country - a beauty both tangible and intangible that is constantly forgotten and sacrificed in the midst of a bloody war and devastating crisis.
- People often comment that they do not see war in my beautiful pictures of Yemen, where the world’s worst humanitarian crisis continues to cast a tremendous, even inescapable shadow across the landscape, Al-Sharif says. But, since the war began nearly five years ago, the vast majority of the scenes that I have captured in my beloved motherland have put my life at risk. Even if the outcome looks beautiful - schoolchildren or fishermen smiling in the north, newlyweds or goatherders smiling in the south, women young and old with enduring spirits from north to south - destruction, danger or death often lurk just beyond the frame. War makes my beautiful pictures war pictures.
- There are an untold number of bloody scenes from Yemen that only exist in my mind. Mental images that I cannot publish in a newspaper or hang on a gallery wall. They are the scenes that I did not want to photograph, to remember more than I already do. For me, just like my sister Hayat, who is also a photographer, flashing back to the scenes that epitomize how ugly the war has been to us, and how much it has scattered us in all directions, is like free-falling into the darkness. We want to be in the light, to move forth with our ambitions and dreams.
A perilous mission
Traveling through both Houthi rebel and government checkpoints to photograph the perseverance - the enduring spirits - of Yemeni women young and old, Al-Sharif illustrates how the world’s worst humanitarian crisis has afflicted them, a task which has involved great determination in acquiring the paperwork to satisfy both sides of the conflict.
Al-Sharif’s photos and journalistic work have put her life at risk. In 2018, she was arrested several times within the scope of her activity as a dedicated documentarian. After having her camera confiscated multiple times, she decided to leave Yemen for Tanzania.
ICORN residency in Paris
- The fostering of creation and open expression is a core commitment of the City of Paris. By favoring the ICORN network, the City demonstrates its involvement and I am extremely glad to welcome Amira Al-Sharif in Paris within this program, declared Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris.
Today, ICORN and the City of Paris offers Amira Al Sharif residency for a year renewable once at Cité Internationale des Arts. Her work will be on full view and she will be able to develop new international photographic projects.
Amira Al-Sharif is the fifth ICORN resident in Paris, and the first one from Yemen. In 2011 the City of Paris joined ICORN to offer safety and opportunity to continue working with writers and artists prevented from working freely in their home countries. Since 2011, five have been offered residency in Paris the following residents: