When dreams travel, what do you see?

Meet Sara Aman, a professional photographer ‘in pursuit of her happy-ness’. Apart from commercial assignments such as product shots, which is her forte, Sara also loves shooting food (especially gorgeous desserts), beautiful interiors and architecture. Photography, for her, is not just a profession, it’s her voice. It’s her way of expressing the world around her and a means of capturing her wanderlust in vivid colours. And now she’s inviting everyone to share in her dreams, in her first travel photography exhibition 3 years in the making, “When Dreams Travel”, co-presented with her good friend and fellow photography buff, Nursidah Malik.

“When Dreams Travel is symbolic for me. It’s about places that used to exist in my dreams….and those dreams have lingered in the air above me and have travelled through time to become a reality in my life.” 

When was the last time you let your dreams take you to a new land? 

Behind the hearty laughter and bubbly voice, it hasn’t always been sweet dreams for Sara. After deciding to take on photography as a career, Sara worked in a studio as a photography assistant. As she learnt the ropes and worked on more projects, she honed her craft and took on more shoots. But while most assistants leave to set up their own business after 2 years in the trade, Sara stayed on in the studio for 9 years. It wasn’t so much a conscious choice as a decision based on fear. She struggled against inner doubts, lack of confidence and a growing anger at her own inertia. She was uncertain that she would survive running her own show, unsure that she could make ends meet, unsettled that she was going to leave a comfort zone. It would take a leap of faith.

That leap happened in 2010. With no equipment nor studio to call her own, and going against the wishes of her mum who believed in traditional job security, Sara took the plunge to become a freelance photographer. Thankfully, she had the support of good friends and siblings, who believed in her.

“It was crazy and scary, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made!”

Despite the continual challenge of having to DIY everything from sourcing for clients, to scoring assignments, to handling shoots and more, the personal satisfaction she derived from her newfound ability to stand on her own feet was priceless.


On the road to Damascus

“When Dreams Travel” showcases photography from Sara and Nursidah’s visits to 3 different countries – Canada, Shanghai (China) and Syria. Each place held its unique charm and photo-worthy elements for both of them, but Syria clearly has a very special place in their hearts. Both would go back to Syria again in a heartbeat!

The opportunity to go to Syria arose from one of Sara’s hobbies that isn’t connected to photography at all. In 2006, Sara started learning Arabic as a pastime. She fell in love with the sophisticated variations that made it such a beautiful and ‘exact’ language with no room for misunderstanding (if you say it correctly!). She even took up Arabic calligraphy, which she enjoyed and still practices from time to time to this day. In 2007, the school made available to its students a chance to sightsee and take Arabic lessons in Syria. Sara jumped at the chance, hoping to see more of the culture and history surrounding the language she studied, and asked Nursidah to come along.  The country so amazed and inspired her that she took more than 1000 photographs in her 15-day trip. What she saw went against the negative media stereotypes in her memory. The aura, history, people, buildings and the Syrian Desert amazed and inspired her. She captured her love for the place in photographs, the way she knows best.

“Just breathe in the air in Syria, you’ll fall in love with it!” 

Syria is not among the most popular tourist stops and remains relatively unknown to the local public. Sara wanted to share her joy in exploring this new land, but it was a struggle to choose only a few selected prints for the limited exhibition space. Nonetheless, she hopes that people who view the exhibition can be inspired to continue finding joy in their travels, and to hold on to a spirit of adventure.


Bagdad Café and beyond 

One of the photographs chosen for the exhibition, also shown on the electronic poster for the event, is a shot of Bagdad Café, set against a beautiful desert-scape. Located between Palmyra and Damascus, the Bagdad Cafe got its name from a 1987 film by Percy Adlon. It’s popular with backpackers from around the world, who hit the joint when they traverse the Syrian Desert. One could hear the excitement in Sara’s voice as she reminisces about the romance of that place, stumbling upon its authentic, old walls, drinking in the look and feel of the desert outpost. It was also extra special as it was Sara’s first stop when she entered the Syrian Desert. In the same way, “When Dreams Travel” is a significant milestone for Sara. Though the space couldn’t contain all that she wanted to share, it’s only her first stop. She names Morocco, Antarctica and Moscow as potential settings for her future adventures and photography of dreams translated into reality. Stay tuned and expect to see more of Sara as she continues her journey.

In the meantime, where do Your dreams travel to?

See Sara’s work at “When Dreams Travel” at the Arts House from now till 12th Feb 2011.