Omani photographer Eman Ali, who was born in the UK, creates an arresting visual analogy between the strength of pole dancing instructor Nusaiba Al Maskari’s body and the Hajar Mountains in the background in her sunlit portrait. She aligns with the mountains above Muscat by gracefully extending herself horizontally from her pole, forming a single fluid line across the picture plane.
Ali, who works between Oman and Bahrain at the moment, started pole dancing when she was living in London a few years ago. She explained in an email that she wanted to meet Al Maskari and take pictures of him in particular because she had heard about the instructor’s private studio, Rock & Rhythm.
According to Ali, “I am drawn to like-minded women who are not afraid to be themselves.”
Ali explained that even though pole dancing has grown in popularity worldwide over the past two decades, it is “highly unusual” to have such a studio in the Gulf nation.
“Her bravery in bringing a sport that celebrates female sensuality to a more conservative environment and her ability to help women feel confident and empowered by their bodies inspire me,”
The striking portrait is from Ali’s meditative series “The Earth Would Die if the Sun Stopped Kissing Her,” which is about life in Oman. It is part of a global project by the NFT platform Obscura in which nearly 140 photographers documented contemporary life in the same month.
She explained that Ali’s contribution, which she also displayed last fall at the international photo fair Paris Photo, is a love letter to Oman’s land and people, “highlighting the beauty, imperfections, and strength” that unite us. She also plays with the poetic qualities of light in other images, setting a woman’s portrait against the deep purple hues of sunset and casting star projections across a man whose eyes are closed in repose.
She stated that some of Ali’s fondest Oman memories include “magical” childhood camping trips in the country’s wadis, or oases, and diving in the Gulf of Oman. She asked Al Maskari if they could meet at the Bousher Sand Dunes instead of taking her portrait in her studio. She explained that the dunes in southeastern Muscat, which are referred to locally as “Urooq,” rise high above buildings and have been “slowly disappearing” due to urban growth.
The morning she met Al Maskari and her significant other it was boiling, giving them brief period to shoot before Al Maskari’s convenient post turned out to be too sweltering to even consider contacting. Despite the fact that Ali only had a limited amount of time to take pictures as Al Maskari performed the poses she had planned, this one caught her eye immediately due to its symmetry; Ali referred to this as the “harmony between the female body and nature herself.”
To commemorate Eid al-Fitr, Al Masakari posted the image to her studio’s Instagram account, describing it as “such a beautiful picture.”
When she next comes back to Muscat, Ali intends to take one of Al Maskari’s classes and commends the instructor for her dedication to the sport.
Ali stated, “She’s providing a fun and safe space for women.” She is also encouraging body positivity and contributing to the development of a sense of community among her students. I really appreciate how she is contributing to the normalization of pole dancing as a legitimate art and exercise form.