Brought out for public viewing, the unique archival photographs put up at exhibition titled ‘Moments’ by Salam International Investment Ltd. (SIIL) revisit the times of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, paying tribute to the nation’s Grandfather Emir and recognising his contribution to Qatar’s progress.
The exhibition was launched at The Gate Mall’s Maysaloun Hall recently. The collection offers a fascinating glimpse into the country’s historic journey, making it a must see event for Qatar’s nationals, expatriates, students and photography enthusiasts.
Community sat down with AbdulSalam Abu Issa, Deputy CEO of Salam International Investment Ltd, to learn more about the significance of the photographs on display and their historical context.
“At Salam International Investment Ltd., we believe that there is no better way to celebrate the present than to pause and revisit the past and to take out time to honour those who have gone before us,” says Abu Issa.
“Therefore we organised this exhibition to pay tribute to HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, the late Grandfather Emir, whose contributions are the earliest indications of how the country was to rise in the international arena,” he explains.
Salam’s roots were established by Abdul Salam Mohammed Abu Issa, an aspiring businessman, who, at a very early age, arrived in Doha and carved the path for one of Qatar’s oldest and largest conglomerates.
In 1950, Salam’s founder brought with him a camera to the country. More importantly, he brought a talent for capturing on film the personality of the land and its people, a concept entirely new in Qatar, which captured the imagination of Qataris.
In 1952, Abdul Salam Abu Issa opened the first studio and film-processing laboratory in Doha under the name “Salam Studio.” In the six decades since, the art of photography and the retailing of photography equipment has been closely linked to Salam’s business operations.
As a local conglomerate, Salam International also launched a series of celebratory activities to commemorate the National Day and this exhibition kicked off the activities.
“The Abu Issa family owns a private collection of rare images that document Qatar over a period of six decades. The archives contain images that have been taken by the hand of Salam’s founder,” says Abu Issa.
“With close knowledge of the country’s growth trajectory and the developments that have taken place in Qatar, the family considers it a privilege and a responsibility to share these images with the general public,” he adds.
Photography is closely linked to Salam International’s beginnings and it continues to be part of their business interests to date, he says.
“So we naturally have a passion for the art. But we also have a wider goal. We want to encourage participation of the community in the art of photography. Salam believes that photography is a vital tool that can help tell the story of this land,” says the CEO.
“Images have the power of documenting the past and the present from multiple perspectives, making it a very participatory art. That is why we encourage and promote nationals, residents, expatriates and particularly, the future generation to engage with photography and use it to widen their knowledge, awareness and enrich their memories of Qatar,” he elaborates.
Speaking about some of the rare images that form part of the photography archives, Abu Issa says among uncommon images in the private collection are a series of photographs that cover Qatar’s development spanning five decades from the 1950s to the 1990s.
The most interesting images include the laying of the first oil pipeline in Dukhan (where Salam’s founder Abdul Salam Abu Issa worked as a welder), the construction of the clock tower near the Emiri Diwan, the meeting of leaders of a nascent GCC, the development of Dafna, the original Souq Waqif and glimpses into the lives of citizens during the 1960s.
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