Tomorrow's Past and Untold Stories by Mohammed Al Kouh

 © Mohammed Al Kouh - Water Towers

© Mohammed Al Kouh - Water Towers

Mohammed Al Kouh is a Kuwaiti photographer who I first got to know online through Twitter a few years ago, and had a chance to meet him in person a couple of times since then.

He's a fellow analogue photographer and I've been following his work which has been developing over the past year. His photography reflects his relationship with his home city Kuwait, which "focuses on landmarks reflecting an almost forgotten Kuwaiti landscape as well as whispers of stories told between generations as though they are dreams from a parallel reality".

The photographs commemorate past buildings in a futuristic composition of a glorious past of the architecture of Kuwait.  Al Kouh’s photographs embark on a powerful journey into a time that refuses to be limited to just a memory of the past, but however still insist on existing as a deeper present reality. Al Kouh’s work takes viewers back to a time where buildings in Kuwait were the landmark of this “Pearl of the Gulf” city and where stories were told as if each word is a pearl of an infinite necklace.

Mohammed Al Kouh will have his first solo show opening next week in Kuwait from 9th-19th April in CAP (Contemprorary Art Platform), and I'm really happy and excited for him. I think this solo show will be the start of something big for him. And some of his work was recently acquired by the Tropen Museum in Amsterdam. So watch this space. 

Oh, and today is also Al Kouh's birthday, so wishing him a very happy birthday.  

The exhibition in Kuwait will include two of Al Kouh's series, Tomorrow's Past and Untold Stories. Both series consist of beautiful imagery and an ode to a lost era in the Gulf. It also reminds me of the discussions that took place about Kuwait at Art Dubai's Global Art Forum which I wrote about recently.  If you're in Kuwait, don't miss this. I am certain his work will be exhibited outside Kuwait soon.


Tomorrow's Past

In the up rise of every nation, not only do people tend to change their looks, but also buildings get renovated and new ones appear reflecting the new face of the city. Development in all sectors is necessary, especially architecture because it tracks how any country is moving forward; but when this process is done at the expense of historical figures, it demolishes it and erases an entire generations lifestyle just to look 'modern'. Long term, this will result in an identity problem of both the country and its people. 

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© Mohammed Al Kouh - Al Sawaber

‘Tomorrow’s Past’ is a series that takes on an artist's point of view of present time through the visual language of the past.  To create these serene scenes with hand-colored black and white photographs, Mohammed Al Kouh drove around Kuwait to capture on camera film landmark architectures built in the 1950s, 60s, & 70s, which is often referred to as 'Kuwait's Golden era'. These landmarks were once upon a time a hub or a distinguished place that reflected the up rise of Kuwait after its independence in 1961; some of them include Fahad Al-Salem Street, Al Ahmedi Drive-In Cinema, and Al-Sawaber Complex to name a few.

Their establishment and existence were an essential part of people's memory and history. Unfortunately, some of the buildings were demolished while others remain neglected, or on their way to be gone as if they never existed. What authorities are neglecting to understand that by erasing these countenances, they are removing the last remaining evidence of 'Kuwait's Golden Era'.

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© Mohammed Al Kouh - Rolls Royce Building

Other countries, whether they have been ripped apart by war or natural disasters, usually try to maintain and renovate historical landmarks; because it not only echo how cities move forward - in some cases backward - but also how citizens have changed. It is part of human development, a visual trace of many witnesses of stories and events; some are on national level while others personal.

The importance of historical landmarks doesn't just exist in the bricks and walls, but in what it represents and how it’s been witnessed through the years. Tearing them down doesn’t leave any traces for the generations to come.

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© Mohammed Al Kouh - Al Ahmadi Drive-in Cinema

Al Kouh's photographs take us back in time to the beautiful landmarks of an age when Kuwait was known as 'The Pearl Of The Gulf'. How these buildings looked compared to their shocking reality where many people pass by and don't notice or pay any attention to them, some are already forgotten. It is dedicated to document an era that links past to present, how Kuwait transformed and developed, where it stood and stands now.

This year long project is an attempt to create awareness of the consequences of demolishing landmarks. It’s an effort for us to pay attention to what remains, and lastly a reminder of a captivating and essential part of Kuwait's history, one that witnessed peace, harmony, growth and human-maturity not destruction and war. 

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© Mohammed Al Kouh - The End

 

Untold Stories

© Mohammed Al Kouh - Samry

I've always been moved by stories. When I was a child I preferred to hear them from my mom rather than watching them on TV or hearing them from anyone else. My moms’ versions were always pure and interesting. I remember asking her to tell the same stories every night over and over again for years. I started imagining every single detail in these stories until they became sort of a reality for me in what looked like a dream. In dreams you're always more beautiful than reality. You’re always happy and with the ones you love and no one will ever hurt you. 

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© Mohammed Al Kouh - Heartbreak

But I grew up and started to forget these stories. I realized it’s impossible to live in a dream your whole life or you will be living in a lie. That was the point when I wanted to recreate my dreams by making a parallel universe were I can be here and there at the same time. I wanted to revel in the layers of the human soul. I didn't just want to take pictures, I wanted to express a feeling beyond the photograph. These aren’t just about the subject itself, instead they extend to how they make you feel and tell the story of the forgotten and things we don't talk about anymore. They hope reminisce with the memories, feelings and the people who don’t exist any more…

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© Mohammed Al Kouh - The Orphans I

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© Mohammed Al Kouh - The Orphans III

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