Ali Ahmed Ali was among a community of Yemeni sailors who lived in a boarding house in South Shields, Great Britain, between trips at sea. Photo by Peter Fryer.
While writing about the opportunities offered by the revolutions in the media economy, I have harbored a desire to engage in creative practice. I have always felt that no matter how good documentary photography was, developments in multimedia offered the prospect for more complex and rounded stories in which the subjects themselves could speak. Collaborating with photographer Peter Fryer was my first opportunity to pursue this.
For the last decade, Peter has worked in and around my hometown of Newcastle in Great Britain photographing the Yemeni community. It is a project of immense importance for understanding both the history and place of a too-often demonized group in our region. He asked me to write the introductory text to his exhibition at The Side Gallery in Newcastle. Once I acquired some knowledge of Final Cut Pro, I proposed to Peter that we work together to produce a multimedia piece based on his photographs.
The end result, “The Boarding House
,” is a long way from being perfect, but in constructing a narrative through the combination of text, audio interviews, and images we have made it possible for this story to travel to different places via different Web sites. Most importantly, it has become a valued resource for the Yemeni community in both England and Yemen, which participated in its production.