Tasneem Alsultan | Saudi Tales of Love

Country of origin: Saudi Arabia
Project location: Saudi Arabia
Program: Arab Documentary Photography Program
Year: 2015

Whilst Saudi Arabia is an international symbol of Islam, many Saudis would agree that there’s a strong disconnect between the Qur’an and local traditions. I wanted to answer question that many shared: Do we need marriage to signify that we have love? Do you need a husband to have a significant life?

I started the project thinking I only had my personal story to share. I was married at the age of 17, and living separately as a single parent for the last six years of an unhappy ten-year marriage. Many family members commented on how foolish I was to ask for a divorce. Only later, I realized that there were many Saudi women who had similar experiences, and who challenged expectations of a typical Saudi housewives. With each story, I found more women sharing complex marriage theories and experiences. I followed the stories of widows, happily married women, and divorced women. I explored the concept of love by photographing my young daughter and grandmother. Through my wedding images, I explored the expectations of marriage through elaborate wedding ceremonies and rituals. A common realization for every woman I photographed was that they all had managed to overcome the many hurdles that was put before them by the institution of family and the state.