MENA Newswire: Launching its first-ever Young People Programme (YPP) in Saudi Arabia, Canon recently gave a new generation of young people a chance to direct change through the art of visual storytelling. Operating since 2015, the YPP has reached more than 5,000 participants in partnership with over 40 charities all over the world. It empowers the next generation of storytellers with access to education and equipment so that they can continue to learn, grow, and visualise their ideas to the world.
Reaffirming its commitment to Saudi Arabia, Canon partnered with the Saudi Royal Commission and Canon’s brand ambassador Tasneem Al Sultan—a celebrated Saudi photographer and visual storyteller interested in social and gender issues, to lead 17 female students on a unique journey. Putting the focus on sustainability through a female perspective, Tasneem helped bring introspection and gendered reflection through12 in-person sessions and one-month of virtual classes. The classes were based out of Al Ula, a visual and historic masterpiece and one of the oldest cities in the Arabian Peninsula and home to Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.
The programme included the practical elements of compelling visual narratives and fostered a message for sustainable and ethical visual representation. Beyond assisting students in brushing up on their basic photography and videography skills, such as framing, exposure, etc., the programme also helped equip them with critical skills. This included, for example, the analysis and reflection on how to frame the representation of others while telling gender-nuanced narratives that can lead change. The workshop also brought key ethical, moral, and social issues relating to the production and consumption of images to the forefront.
Sustainability in focus
Canon has always been keen on highlighting global issues to influence positive change in society, especially those that impact young people. The sweeping social changes in Saudi Arabia over the past two years have created multiple opportunities to tell nuanced stories that highlight different perspectives. It was one of the main reasons that Canon was excited to run the programme in the Kingdom. By harnessing the power of positive visual storytelling to drive change, the YPP hopes to give young people the opportunity to express themselves. As a result, they’re encouraged to engage in thoughtful reflection and dialogue regarding topics close to their hearts.
Using Saudi’s majestic AlUla site as its base, the programme leveraged its awe-inspiring surroundings with workshop-style sessions to inspire young women to channel thousands of years of culture, heritage, and natural beauty to present unique ideas that engage and drive conversations forward. By framing women in their everyday lives—driving, engaging in public spheres, working etc. — the YPP participants captured the real and tangible social evolution happening right now in the Kingdom. Combined with Tasneem’s expert guidance and the YPP’s platform to exhibit their work, the programme ensured vital stories were shared through images that reflected a hopeful present and the potential for, and insistence on, a thriving gender-balanced future.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience
AlUla sits at the crossroads of the Silk Road and the Incense Route and spans rock formations, canyons, desert oasis, and tombs. Its natural and human-made sandstone outcrops, preserved vaults, historic dwellings, and monuments create a living museum. But amongst this year’s YPP cohort, students didn’t simply learn how to take a stunning picture of a beautiful landscape—there was so much more to it.
Amongst the backdrop of 200,000 years of fascinating and unexplored history, participants were able to add to and develop their existing knowledge of the camera, themselves, and the world that exists beyond. And that’s the type of experiences Canon wants to create—impactfully framed for positive change, using a lens through which we can all believe in a brighter, more beautiful and picturesque future.