Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and pandemic life

Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves, and pandemic life

Photo manipulation

Client: Personal
Date: 2020
Tools: Adobe Photoshop

01. Background

This is a very personal piece for me. I was close to submitting my dissertation on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves during the pandemic in 2020. I wanted a year-end image to post on my Instagram. I wanted to look forward to my new life beyond my postgraduate but there were many uncertainties. Not only that, I regretted doing research though I do have a certificate to prove that I completed my research.
Despite the uncertainties, I wanted to create a piece that symbolises the end of my research life.

02. Approach

Since this piece is for an Instagram post, I decided on a simple photo manipulation on Adobe Photoshop. The only thing I had in mind was a relevant Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves image and another photo that I could relate to.

03. Process

Before starting on this piece, I was inspired by a song titled Goodbye by Air Supply, especially this part of the lyrics:
I just can’t live a lie anymore
I would rather hurt myself
Than to ever make you cry
There’s nothing left to say, but goodbye
While this song is a love song, it resonated with me deeply because I was living a lie while doing my research. I hated academia and partly why I did it was because I was ‘encouraged’ to harness critical thinking and meeting up to people’s expectations. Not only that, I did lose friends because I was taking a path not taken. These expectations and isolation paralysed me so much that I had nothing left to say, except to say goodbye to the year 2020.
After being immersed in the song, I started my hunt for the imageries. The Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves image was taken from Wikicommons, while the girl on the train was taken by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels
Girl on Train 
Finding Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves image was easy because most of them are in the public domain. Most of the images only focused on the characters, but never as a band of thieves. Hence, I was fortunate to find this image as I wanted a visual that depicts movement. In this visual, the band of thieves appears to be charging to a particular location.
As for the woman sitting by the train window, I liked the photo Ketut Subiyanto took. I was looking for a photo that depicts me closely as I  come from a city in Malaysia. When I saw his photo, I knew this was the photo closest to my lifestyle and my looks.
I was looking at both of the images and realised that the colours of both images clashed. I decided to saturate the photo of the woman on the train to greyscale and let the Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves visual stand out. After all, I have felt many times that my research of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves overshadows who I am.

04. Final Thoughts

To be honest, it was just a simple piece unlike those that I have done in my work. However, I thought this was a good closure for me to move on as it was created and posted to others. People may not understand the full context of my Instagram caption, but it was my way of getting myself heard and seen in a small way.