TIME portfolio

Inside a Saudi Arabian Oil Giant’s American Oasis

“When I think back on growing up in Dhahran, it seems like a dream. An American dream in Saudi Arabia.”

Photographer Ayesha Malik grew up in a typical American suburb with cookie-cutter houses, softball fields, and Christmas trees in December. However, her hometown, Dhahran, is located on the east coast of Saudi Arabia, some 8,000 miles away from the California neighborhood it was modeled after.

Dhahran is a 22.5 square-mile gated compound built for the American expatriate workers of Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world. Now owned by the Saudi state, Aramco was originally founded in 1933 as a U.S.-Saudi joint venture. Palm trees and lush lawns were imported after striking black gold.

“Growing up, I didn’t differentiate between ‘American’ and ‘Saudi’,” says Malik. “In my world, abayas and softball fields were very compatible. As I got older, I realized what a rare privilege it was to have the chance to experience Saudi Arabia.”

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Ayesha MalikStreet signs in Dhahran are written in both Arabic and English.

The opportunity for Westerners to travel, let alone photograph, in Saudi Arabia has always been severely restricted. “Sure, [Dhahran] is in Saudi Arabia, but it’s not really Saudi Arabia,” Malik tells TIME. Outside the Aramco compound, women can’t drive, shops close multiple times a day for prayer, and restaurants are segregated between families and single males, she says.

In Dhahran, Malik can drive, ride a bike, and photograph her hometown. But, if she steps out of the compound, she cannot enjoy the same range of freedoms without being accompanied by a male relative, and must conform to the country’s stringent rules. “I still get told to put my camera away by guards at the mall,” she says. “Legally, I can take photos in public — but that wasn’t always the case. For years, camera phones were banned at the mall, but there is no way that could be controlled in this day and age.”

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Ayesha MalikDhahran Mall, a 10 minute drive outside of the compound. Women usually wear abayas outside of Aramco’s compound.

With her Pakistani origins, her American passport and Saudi background, Malik is perfectly positioned to document Saudi identity, which now forms an integral part of her work as a photographer. “I try not to let the restrictions on women get in my way,” Malik tells TIME. “I focus on the positive. As a woman, I have the chance to meet and speak with many other young women in Saudi Arabia, which would not be doable as a man. I get my fair share of rejections [from men and women], but I also find that people are more curious and open to [being photographed].”

Saudi Arabia is a complex country, and the pace of change is slow, Malik says. However, she sees signs of a shifting status quo. “I just don’t think you can look at Saudi Arabia and implement changes based on a Western perspective,” she says. “Saudi Arabia takes great pride in its history and tradition, but it also values the importance of a future in the modern world.”

Ayesha Malik is a photographer based in New York City and Riyadh.

Marisa Schwartz is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.com. Follow her on Instagram and twitter.


TIME Follow Friday

Deconstructing Brazil’s Largest City on Instagram

Photographer Décio Araújo uses his cellphone to create captivating cityscapes of his native Sao Paulo

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TIME Lightbox Follow Friday isa series featuring the work of photographers using Instagram in new, interesting and engaging ways.

This week on #LightBoxFF, TIME speaks to Brazilian architect and photographer Décio Araújo (@dearaujo). Inspired by his formal training as an architect, Araújo uses mobile apps to create fascinating images that illuminate issues of urban expansion in one of the world’s largest cities.

Lightbox: Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in photography?

Décio Araújo: I am an architect and I really love the relations between city, people and nature. Perhaps because of my passion for architecture, I like to photograph urban spaces and buildings. I try to capture a different point of view of the city and different perspectives on daily urban life.


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A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀décio araújo (@dearaujo) on


Lightbox: Does photography offer creative freedom you might not have in your daily work as an architect?

Décio Araújo: My photography involves architectural elements, but it also involves other issues about the architecture – such as urban aspects of the city, social issues, and the relationship between built spaces, people and nature. I see relationships that go beyond architectural projects, problems that large cities have like chaos, sprawl and lack of planning, which influence the population of the city. Photography is a way to express elements that are not part of my daily work.


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A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀décio araújo (@dearaujo) on


Lightbox: Has your understanding of the Instagram platform changed since you first started using it?

Décio Araújo: I started using Instagram four years ago. At the time, I did not have an idea of the size of the app and what could be [achieved] through it. Until then, my photos were more day-to-day [snaps] and did not follow any project. I realized the possibility of sharing my point of view about the city I live in with others, from [different] countries and Brazil itself. I had never published any of my photographs before Instagram.

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A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀décio araújo (@dearaujo) on


Lightbox: Tell us about your creative and technical process. How do you make these images?

Décio Araújo: Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil and is often judged by its uncontrolled growth and lack of planning—which are problems any city can [face]. I believe we can see beauty in many places where people think it does not exist—and it is through photography that I express this. All of my photos are made 100% on the phone, from the picture to the final treatment and sharing. I have a list of smartphone apps that I use to make collages (including UnionApp, FragmentApp, and Filterstorm) of mostly urban spaces and buildings in the city. I use different or identical photographs to develop the “deconstructed” image. After this, I take care of aesthetic elements such as symmetry, balance and proportion.


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A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀décio araújo (@dearaujo) on


Lightbox: What do you hope viewers will see in your photographs?

Décio Araújo: I want to make people more critical of the space they live in, encourage them to look, to go to areas that are not attractive, to be more poetic and analytical.


c l a u s t r o f o b i a u r b a n a • V fotografia é a possibilidade de transmitir um segundo ponto de vista. entrada para o #SextaTarefa tema: Fotografia é…

A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀décio araújo (@dearaujo) on

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A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀décio araújo (@dearaujo) on


Décio Araújo is an architect based in Sao Paulo. Follow him on Instagram @dearaujo.

Marisa Schwartz is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.com. Follow her on twitter and Instagram.

TIME State of the Union 2015

These Are the Funniest Memes From the State of the Union

Few were safe from becoming a joke on social media

While pundits and political operatives dissected President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, the quick-witted citizens of Twitter flourished in the abundance of meme-able moments Tuesday night.

Here are some of the highlights.

  • Biden’s Reaction

    Not sure if the Vice President knew he was making the face of a rapper’s hype-man as the President spoke.

  • Speaker Boehner is Not Impressed

    Like the Vice President’s, House Speaker John Boehner’s facial expressions are always an easy target for critique during the State of the Union

  • Secretary Moniz Gets Meme’d

    Neither Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz nor his amazing hair got enough air time during the State of the Union

  • First Lady Fashion

    First Lady Michelle Obama channelled the look of another “First Lady” last night, Alicia Florrick of CBS’s The Good Wife.

  • The President’s “Drops-Mic” Moment

    The moment that stole the show gets the Vine treatment, complete with dad-dancing

  • Rand Paul Joins In

    Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joined in on the fun, using a Willy Wonka meme to question the President’s plan for free community college

  • The State of the Union Is…

    Though Obama said Tuesday the state of our union is “strong,” someone suggested a word that could better connect with the youth

  • The Suit Returns

    White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer did a little pre-speech trolling, suggesting the President would be wearing his infamous tan-suit during the evening’s address

  • Joni Ernst’s Shoes

    During the official Republican response, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst recalled covering her shoes with bread bags to protect them when she was growing up, which spawned arguably one of the funniest memes of the night

  • A Presidential Wink

    POTUS flashes a wink and a smile

    Read next: The State of the Union Brought Out the Troll in Everyone

    Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Military

See the U.S. Military’s Last Days of Combat in Afghanistan

The U.S.-led coalition ended its combat mission on Sunday

The United States-led coalition in Afghanistan ended its combat mission on Sunday, 13 years after it began in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. More than 10,000 troops will remain on the ground to aid Afghan forces in a new U.S. role that called Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

“For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

Almost 1 million U.S. troops served at least one tour in Afghanistan; a total 3,485 allied troops were killed, including 2,356 Americans.

Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson documented the final days of the U.S.’s official combat campaign with the men and women of Forward Operating Bases Gamberi and Fenty in Laghman and Nangarhar provinces, respectively.

Read next: U.S. Ends Its War in Afghanistan

TIME Culture

Meet the Man Who Spent $60,000 on Christmas

Christmas in Staten Island, N.Y. is taken very seriously

Sammy Nahas, a 38-year-old electrician, is a guy’s guy, according to photographer Dana Ullman. Ullman has been documenting Nahas’ preparations for the holiday season since September, although planning is a year-round task.

“It’s like Harley Davidson meets Christmas,” says Nahas. “Would I picture me doing this? No. I sew for God’s sake. If you asked me 10 or 15 years ago if I could sew, I’d say you were out of your mind.”

On Staten Island, Christmas decorations are taken very seriously. Talking about Christmas trees, Santa’s elves, reindeer, and toy soldiers “makes everyday men Kings of Christmas,” Ullman says.

Nahas has spent over $100,000 on Christmas decorations in the last three years. This year alone, he estimates spending around $60,000.

The extravagant display takes extreme effort all year round. It requires almost 3,000 square feet of storage space, 200,000 lights, and an entire house full of Christmas paraphernalia — from miniature elves to life-size snowmen.

“It’s hard to live like this,” Nahas says, “bumping into stuff, just everyday activities. But it’s all for Christmas so it’s all ok. You wait 365 days for this one day. Jesus is born, family comes over, you eat like pigs, you’re merry, it’s a good day.”

The season isn’t all cheery and bright for Nahas. After finalizing a divorce three years ago, he said that Christmas Day actually became the most depressing day of the year for him. But once it’s over, he starts planning for next year.

Nahas works hard on his decorations for the enjoyment of others. Children and families tour the neighborhood full of dazzling lights and Nahas is satisfied by the happiness he brings to the community.

Dana Ullman is a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn.

READ NEXT Your Christmas Tree Lights Are Headed to China—Then Back to You

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME portfolio

Documenting Immigration From Both Sides of the Border

For the past eight years, Kirsten Luce has been documenting immigration issues between the U.S. and Mexico

On Nov. 20, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions to reform immigration laws in the United States. These new actions will protect up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation, expand border security, and create new programs to promote citizenship and legal immigration.

Photographer Kirsten Luce has been documenting both sides of the U.S.–Mexico border since 2006, when she became a staff photographer at The Monitor in the border town of McAllen, Texas. After moving to New York City in 2008, Luce had a shift in perspective and started to look at immigration issues from a national point of view, she says.

Earlier this year, immigration came back at the forefront of the national debate when a massive influx of unaccompanied minors and families crossed the border. “When I first started seeing the news in May and June,” Luce says, “I thought I was aware of how busy the border has been for a couple of years [and that] reports might be exaggerating things. I was wrong.”

Luce immediately went to Texas, embedding herself with local law enforcement. They encountered two groups of 12 women and children within an hour, and then another group several minutes later. “Normally, you go on a ride along, [and] you don’t see anything for a couple of hours,” says Luce. “You might see one group the whole time… [This time] it was surreal.”

And while news organizations usually had little interest for Luce’s work on immigration, suddenly “people wanted whatever pictures they could get from the Rio Grande Valley to try to understand this space that has become the focal point of the national debate on immigration,” she says. Since this summer, Luce has been able to publish every story that she has produced, with other journalists also reaching out to her for advice on how to work in the area.

Luce’s comprehensive body of work covers diverse aspects of immigration on both sides of the border – from illegal border crossing to border patrol agents, stash houses where migrants are kept on arrival in the US. She is well aware that, as a journalist, such access is hard to come by. Over the years, Luce has maintained good relations with several local law enforcement agencies and they have grown to trust her. And while she is not always allowed to ask migrants about their stories, Luce appreciates the law enforcement officers that give her a chance to document the situation while they do their jobs.

“My intention is to contribute to a dialogue on the current immigration system,” Luce says. She has seen the complex narrative of immigration evolve for years, and stresses the importance of understanding this fluid situation and the people it affects on both sides of the border.

Kirsten Luce is a freelance photographer based in New York City.

Marisa Schwartz is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.



See Haunting Photos of NYPD Surveillance Helicopters Above the Eric Garner Protests

Police presence is evident in the air, as well as on the ground

On Thursday, photographer Kevin Kunstadt joined the New York City protests against the grand jury decision not to charge a white NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner.

While most photographers focused their lenses on the protesters themselves, Kunstadt turned his towards the sky. He used his experience photographing airplane trails, using 20-30 second exposures, to capture the abundance of police and news helicopters above the protests — illuminating the constant surveillance.

“There was a sense of almost joyous rebellion,” Kunstadt tells TIME, “and irreverence for authority, police, and the status quo. I didn’t feel the same sadness as last week’s protests [for Michael Brown], but it was still quite emotional and beautiful to see everyone coming together.”

Protests against the police killings of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. continue throughout the country. Kunstadt understands that the act of protesting often requires a police presence, but he finds “something especially ominous” about the aerial surveillance.

“Nevertheless,” he says, “there is an inherent power in turning the gaze of the surveiller back on them, enacting surveillance of the surveillance.”

TIME Crime

Darren Wilson Evidence Photos: What He Looked Like After Killing Michael Brown

These four images offer the clearest view of Wilson's wounds

The images below show Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson shortly after he fatally shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014. In grand jury testimony, Wilson described Brown as a violent aggressor who made the officer fear for his life. “When I grabbed him,” Wilson said in testimony, “the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.”

On Monday, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney released 38 pictures of Wilson taken after the deadly encounter. The four below offer the clearest view of his injuries.


Darren Wilson Ferguson Police Officer
St. Louis County
Darren Wilson Ferguson Police Officer
St. Louis County
Darren Wilson Ferguson Police Officer
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Darren Wilson Ferguson Police Officer
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TIME Crime

See 20 Key Moments From Ferguson

A deadly shooting. Months of protests. An anxiously awaited grand jury decision. These images chronicle the pivotal moments in the fatal encounter between a white police officer and an unarmed African-American teenager that ignited a national debate about race.

Should Ferguson Protestors be Person of the Year? Vote below for #TIMEPOY

TIME Behind the Photos

Two Radically Different Photos Embody Tensions in St. Louis

Laurie Skrivan, a staff photographer at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has been documenting the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. and the greater St. Louis area since protests erupted in August over the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. On Oct. 8, 2014, amid new protests following the fatal shooting of Vonderrit Myers, Jr. who allegedly opened fire during a chase with an off-duty police officer, Skrivan captured two very different images that embody the current tensions in St. Louis.

TIME spoke with Skrivan about her experience photographing the protests and what these two photos represent.

Despite the abundant coverage of the continuing protests in Ferguson and St. Louis, Mo., Laurie Skrivan’s photographs of protesters burning American flags and of a police officer pepper-spraying two women stand out; highlighting the fragile and tense atmosphere in St. Louis.

In the evening of Oct. 8, a peaceful vigil was held to remember Vonderrit Myers, Jr., an 18-year-old man killed by an off-duty police officer. The vigil lasted well into the night, with some members of the crowd deciding to protest in a nearby upscale neighborhood on Flora Place in St. Louis. “They wanted to bring their voice to that street,” says Skrivan, who photographed the protest for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They were marching down that street thinking: ‘Hey, this is going to get people mad. Let them know what it feels like to have unrest in their neighborhood’.”

As the protesters were marching down the street, a few removed flags from houses, Skrivan says. “Out of nowhere this kid just took a lighter and lit one of the flags on fire. And then, like clockwork, the crowd gathered around and people just kept giving more flags to burn. You could hear some people chanting: ‘Burn, baby, burn.’ Others were making comments like: ‘Black men live in a different country,’ or ‘We don’t feel a part of our country.’ [It] was pretty intense.”

Friends and colleagues with whom she discussed the photo, which was published inside the next morning’s edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, told Skrivan that the protesters wouldn’t get any sympathy if they were seen burning flags. “I don’t know if they want sympathy,” Skrivan says. “They want a voice. They want people to see how they feel and that they’re tired of their friends and their sons getting shot.”

Laurie Skrivan—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/PolarisAfter warning protesters to disperse for unlawfully gathering, police dressed in riot gear pepper spray protesters in St. Louis on Oct. 8, 2014.

That same evening, Skrivan followed the protesters to an area where an “officer in need of aid” call resulted in a barricade formed of riot gear-clad police officers. The protesters were clearly agitated, exchanging insults with officers, Skrivan says. Police eventually informed protesters that they would be arrested for unlawfully gathering if they did not disperse.

“There was a group of two or three women who went up close to the police and started yelling,” Skrivan says. “Then there was a physical altercation, they [the police] put their hands on [one of the women], and then you saw the direct stream of mace.”

Viewing both photographs together, “you get a more realistic sense of the scene, how [everyone is] being treated,” Skrivan says. “Some people will look at that photo and say ‘I can’t believe the police are doing that!’ And then other folks will say ‘Of course they’re doing that! What are [these protesters] doing out at night… and they burnt the flag earlier!’ They’re connecting dots in very individualistic ways. It’s surprising to me.”

“Reporting on this story just takes me back to the basics,” Skrivan says. “Sometimes it makes me question how much we really hear each other when we’re talking. I think about that a lot. How are we going to get better? How are we going to grow? There’s just so much distrust out there.”

Laurie Skrivan is a staff photographer at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Marisa Schwartz is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.com

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