Ahlam Photographs Joyous Occasions
Ahlam sees photography as a way to spread joy. With her camera, she captures some of the happiest moments in people’s lives, providing them with lasting memories of their weddings, graduations and other life milestones.
Ahlam, 39, has overcome her share of challenges. Her husband passed away three years ago following a prolonged illness. Widowed with six children, she decided to become a professional photographer, challenging stereotypes and setting an example for her kids.
The loss of her husband put the family in a difficult financial situation. Despite their grief, the family refused to despair. “We stood against all of [the challenges],” Ahlam says. “We wanted to prove that we could do it together as a family.”
Ahlam grew up in the Balata Refugee Camp, in the Palestinian West Bank. As a child, she wandered the narrow alleys, experiencing the beauty of community solidarity. After marriage, she moved to Nablus. She has moved back to the camp now to live with her family until she can find a new home.
Ahlam may have experienced her share of sadness, but now she works to document happiness. Her voice is quiet while describing life in the camp. But when she shifts to talking about photography, her voice gets louder and more animated.
She has had a passion for photography since she was young. She was only 17 when she began taking gigs, photographing weddings and engagement parties. In 2002, Ahlam earned a certificate in photography. She has worked for photography studios for the last decade, unable to become independent professionally, because she didn't have a camera. Her wages at the photography studio were about $20 (70 NIS) a day.
When she learned about Anera's Women Can project, generously funded by Islamic Relief USA, she quickly applied to participate.
Anera has provided Ahlam with two cameras for photography and videography. She has since stopped working for photography studios and opened her own photography business. Since she got the new cameras, she covered three parties and earned $227 (800 NIS) for each engagement — over ten times what she was making before.
Ahlam has even hired an assistant to help her get all the footage she needs for a shoot. She tries to capture her subjects in action, dancing with the music at a party, for instance.
Ahlam is saving up to buy a laptop so she can do her own video editing. For now, she enlists the help of friends with the necessary software to edit her video shoots.
In this era of COVID-19, Ahlam is spending her time at home with her children. The business is on pause until people can resume hosting celebratory events. The break is unexpected, but Ahlam remains optimistic about the future of her photography career.
The views expressed herein are those of Anera and shall not, in any way whatsoever, be construed to reflect the official opinion of IRUSA, its Islamic Relief affiliates, or its donors.