The images are mysterious in some respects. But there were some assumptions that AlDowayan could safely make about the scenes her father captured, based on her knowledge of his life story. As a young man, her father had left home for studies in the US. “I felt that he took these images to show his family and friends back home what America was like, and to show his friends and classmates in the US what his hometown was like,” the artist said.
There were other key events that occurred in those years, in the the decade leading up to the artist’s birth in 1973, that are hinted at in the original slide collection—the artist’s father also got married, honeymooned, and became a parent.
But perhaps more important than those milestones, or any specific chronology, is the subtler character portrait that the photos reveal. Many of the images were taken on beaches or by swimming pools, for instance. That fondness for water, AlDowayan guesses, reflects her father’s nostalgia for his childhood—he grew up near the shoreline of the Arabian Gulf. The fact that he took so many photos in the first place, amassing a large collection that he never printed or looked at again, suggests to AlDowayan that he was often alone—that he was using the camera to document a largely solitary experience.