Nadia Salameh World Class Photographer
Nadia Salameh captures the world in her photographs.
Photo provided by Nadia Salameh
We’ve all heard that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and this saying rings true for the work of world-renowned photographer Nadia Salameh. Known for her exquisite and profound work, Salameh is capturing moments all around the world.
Pictured Right: Nadia Salameh
“My love for travel and different cultures must be genetically ingrained in me because my father as a young man worked and traveled to different countries,” Salameh explained. Born in a small village near Jerusalem, Salameh moved to America when she was young, growing up in San Francisco before eventually making San Diego her home.
“When I first started traveling, I remember standing someplace amazed by the scenery and wishing I could share what I was seeing with everyone at home,” she said. “This is where photography came to life for me. When I picked up my camera, the connection made sense for me. So I have been shooting travel for many years now. It’s only been in recent years I’ve started showing my travel images.”
She first started with wedding photography, but eventually found her passion in travel photography—although she does not limit herself to one genre. “Although I started photographing people first, I also really love photographing landscapes and wildlife so much more than I even imagined,” she explained. “I’ve always been told its best to pick a specialty and focus on it, but that never sat well with me because I enjoy photography as a whole. I will always be a photographer whether I’m doing it for a living or just for myself.”
Ever the jet setter, Salameh has traveled to more than 70 countries, including stops in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. She said she loves to travel to places that are out of her comfort zone and that challenge her both personally and photographically.
“Places that reveal to me the challenges that most of the world faces, as well as the value in life’s simplicity through family and tradition,” she said. “Here in the Western world, we think we have so much to teach people in undeveloped countries, and in some ways we certainly can add value—but I personally learn more from the people I encounter than I can ever imagine they get from me, other than the respect and honor I show them.”
Although she has won many awards and recognition for her work—including “Portrait Photographer of the Year” from the Professional Photographers of San Diego and “International Photographer of the Year” from Professional Photographers of America—Salameh doesn’t consider them her greatest achievements. “I think the achievements I’m most proud of are the relationships and friendships I’ve built, the places I’ve managed to travel to, the people I’ve encountered and my own personal growth through these experiences,” she said.
In fact, some of the best memories of her travels are the people she encountered, whether only for a moment or having spent time with them. One of her fondest memories was in Northern India.
“There’s one image of an elderly women who allowed me to photograph her,” Salameh recalled. “I was intrigued by her graciousness and beauty. She saw me looking at her and I smiled. I held up my camera and gestured if it was ok and she gave me a big beautiful smile giving me the go ahead. I took one quick shot, not wanting to lose that priceless smile. Every time I look at that image, I can’t help but smile. Seems everyone who sees that image feels the same. People always ask me, ‘How can you communicate with people not speaking the same language?’ A smile is universally understood.”
Another life-changing experience she had was in Haridwar, India, where Salameh traveled for the Kumbh Mela, a religious pilgrimage where people gather to bathe in the sacred Ganges River. It’s the largest religious gathering in the world, expected to draw 80 million people this year. Salameh attended one of the main festivals in which the sadhus, or religious leaders, bathe together in the river.
“I got there hours before and made sure to be front and center to photograph this special event,” Salameh recalled. “There had to be a couple million people there at that time.”
When the sadhus decided they wanted to bathe in private, the security tried to push back all the people, creating a stampede of people falling over each other.
“There was a young man standing next to me, and I could tell he was watching me as I obviously didn’t fit. In the stampede, I lost my friend that I was traveling with. This young man saw that, and he took my hand and said, “Hold on and stay with me,” and proceeded to guide me through this mass of people and chaos for a couple of hours before working our way out and reuniting with my travel mate.”
After the ordeal, Salameh was able to talk to the man, whose name was Bhavesh.
“It seemed he was there on his own spiritual journey,” she said. “He had such a beautiful soul, and we connected on a deep level. We ended up spending the next couple of days enjoying the festival with Bhavesh and have built this beautiful friendship. To this day we keep in touch. When you travel with an open mind and heart, you have these experiences and build relationships that would never happen otherwise.”
One of her favorite moments that she has captured was visiting the Hadzabe, a dwindling ethnic group in Tanzania. “I feel so fortunate to have had many (pictures), but one that stays with me that I love is the portrait of a little boy from the Hadzabe tribe,” she said. “I have that hanging on my wall and see it everyday and it too makes me smile every time I see his beautiful face.”
The boy was initially untrusting of Salameh and the other visitors.
“We spent the day hunting with men, grinding corn with the woman and just laughing and really enjoying our time together,” she recalled. “The woman were very impressed that I could get down on the dirt and grind the corn laying on a stone and using another stone to pound the corn with. They actually draped me with the elderly matriarch’s animal skin to show respect for my efforts. They said they didn’t think I could do it since none of the Western woman have been able to in the past.”
During the visit, Salameh was determined to get the young boy to warm up to her.
“As hard as he tried to hold back, I could see a glimpse of a smile here and there,” she said. “After a long and wonderful day, when we were saying our goodbyes, I approached this boy, knelt to his level and put my arms out in hopes he would respond—and he came into my arms for a hug and he finally smiled and his whole face lit up. That moment is always with me.”
Salameh has a busy year ahead. She is putting together photographic tours beginning with safaris to Africa, as well as visiting and shooting tribal people. She has also been invited to travel to Uganda and Rwanda in June to photograph gorillas. This November, she will be featured at the Gallery 21 in Balboa Park.
Her main vision for viewers is what inspires her. “I have a deep appreciation for different cultures and want to share my love of other cultures through my imagery,” she said. “I’m hoping to create a more peaceful, loving and more tolerant world.”