In Pictures

Lighting up the night sky

Bright neon strips of light that punctuate the dark skies of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia caught the eye of Celine Stella, who set out to photograph them whenever she had a spare moment.

Image copyright Celine Stella

Stella has spent a number of years travelling to a variety of countries, working as a nanny and teaching French to children. Her latest job has taken her to Saudi Arabia.

Image copyright Celine Stella

"I've shot neon in a lot of locations," says Stella. "But it's the way it is used in Saudi which interested me the most. Partly because of the way it looks aesthetically in that environment - the empty roads and pitch-black desert sky give it a very stark appearance, and partly because, as Saudi friends have explained to me, it has a real cultural significance there.

"Light is very spiritually important, but we also forget that it's a very young country - within any family, you'll have older generations who remember a time before they even had electricity. So now that it's arrived, there's a real love for, and status attached to, this kind of artificial light.

Image copyright Celine Stella

"It feels more powerful in a country which is predominantly open desert - it's pitch dark in a lot of Saudi at night, with these vast, beautiful skies. In that environment, a neon light travels a huge distance and feels very powerful. It's like a modern version of the campfire."

Image copyright Celine Stella

Stella is self-taught, having been given a camera for her 30th birthday - but she notes that once she starts to photograph a subject, she usually keeps going until she can get it out of her system before moving on to something new.

Image copyright Celine Stella

And once she had noticed the neon, she set about taking lots of pictures.

Image copyright Celine Stella

"I was asking my driver in Saudi about it, and he liked the idea of my project so agreed to drive me around in the evening," she says.

Image copyright Celine Stella

"I had a break when the people I worked with went for their meal to break the fast during Ramadan, so the streets were pretty empty.

Image copyright Celine Stella

"That suited me, because I was more interested in looking at the actual physical geography of the place. So we went out every night, drove around until I saw something which looked right, and then we shot very quickly - there was no real set-up or off-camera lighting. It was just a case of me getting out of the car, shooting, then getting back in."

Image copyright Celine Stella

Stella was also keen to avoid what she sees as the visual cliches people often fall into when photographing the country.

She says: "I felt really lucky that I got to travel there and see it. I wanted to take pictures which captured how I felt when I was there, and the neon did that. I hope the photos give other people an insight into what the real country behind the headlines is like as well."

Image copyright Celine Stella

NOUR by Celine Stella is published by No UFOs.

You can follow Celine Stella on Instagram.