Born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, Khaled – Kal – Matahen started dabbling with art in middle school, first with painting and drawing before he moved onto photography at age 11. It was then that he purchased his first camera, a half-frame Olympus Pen EE. He studied engineering in the US and went on to serve in the US Air Force for 13 years. Now in Bahrain with NCIS, he is exhibiting at InTouch Clinic in Janabiyah until the end of February. He shares some insights into his work.
Your bio mentions that you first began experimenting with photography at the age of 11. Can you remember what it was that drew you to this medium at such a young age and the things you were picturing back then?
Since I can remember, I was fascinated with cameras. I remember my dad buying me a really cheap plastic camera during the Eid holiday when I was only seven. I used to make cameras using shoe box-like cubes making a hole on one side and white paper on the opposite side, on the inside of the box. But my first real camera was bought out of my own money because I worked the summer at my uncle’s business. My first pay was spent on a camera.
You are a self-taught photographer, did you find it a long process of experimentation?
The process of teaching myself was painless. I didn’t learn overnight. I remember experimenting always on how to take a certain picture with a different lighting situation. It was a long and slow process but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Do you still use film as well as digital?
I still have film in the fridge but I haven’t used it in a while.
If you use digital, how have you found the transition?
I do use digital now. The transition was painful. I resisted crossing over because I loved the old way of taking and developing pictures. I enjoyed being in the dark room printing my own shots. I still remember the smell of the chemicals of the dark room, great memories. The old way was more exciting, preparing for the perfect shot then the long wait to see the results.
You also work in paint. Do you ever paint and photograph the same subjects and, if yes, how does the process differ (staging and eventual result)?
I used to be a better portrait painter when I was a lot younger. Then I figured I can do portraits through my lens. I switched to abstract painting about 25-27 years ago. I haven’t drawn faces or people in decades.
What can visitors expect of your current exhibition at InTouch and is there anywhere else people can see your work?
I hope that visitors will be exposed to a different kind of shooting, the HDR style. I fell in love with it 15 years ago and I got hooked. I’ve done a couple of small exhibits in the past and I sold some photos. I always show my shots to by best fans, my closest circle of friends.
Are you ever inspired by things you come across in your work with NCIS?
Well, the travel I do sometimes for work is very interesting and often is to a different world than the one I’m used to. Different countries with different traditions and colours.