CLOSE UP: Ayesha Saeed – The Psychogeography Of The Right Thumb

Ayesha Saeed is an artist working primarily in the medium of photography. Born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, she holds a B.Des. (Communication Design) from the National College of Art ( Pakistan – 2010), BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (USA – 2013) and an MFA from the Royal College of Art (UK – 2016). She recently moved back to Pakistan from London to start a Research Studio in Lahore. Here she talks us through her creative process, her recent project The Psychogeography Of The Right Thumb, and her plans for the future…



I am interested in mathematics, neuroscience, neuroaesthetics; creating systems and then seeing them crash and working from there. I explore the images I take and create photographs from them, I do that by developing systems and letting the image go through them in order to come up with elements to work with. I see patterns in the images I take, I work with the details and sometimes the detail tells the story or it just lets you in. My practice is a very spiritual way though calling it that seems limiting. The photographs are for you to see and seeing is difficult especially in the age of data and technology. The process is very intuitive so each series is different from each other but there’s a common thread running through them. I make my work to go further in my language and to understand what I see, if one takes anything from it then that’s great, otherwise it’s there for you to see, absorb and will give you a perspective independent of what I describe or say about the work.


The Psychogeography Of The Right Thumb series is about examining and interpreting one single image; it is the scan of my own right thumb print. It’s showing you a privileged view of being in the scanned image that represents me in many digital systems around the world. The photographs show newly generated geological, or topographical landscapes which describe an internal space. It is a psychogeography of a personal data set. The photographs raise more questions than present a resolved opinion or a fact. It’s about the identity, the code, the authority, the surveillance, the consent and the digital image.

I did this because of the questions I had when I was at Royal College of Art about my practice. What is a photograph to me? How do I see my portrait? Why being in 2016 our minds are advanced but we don’t really see or apply? The notions that we have of a portrait / way or working in a fine art domain, especially being a photographer, and many more. I came up with an idea of working on a thumb print when I was in Pakistan and my father wanted my signatures and thumbprints on documents of our house. The act of giving a thumb print is very simple and especially being a Pakistani traveller this was something that I was so much used to giving everywhere. There was something about this situation, the context and the ink and paper thumbprint that made me question and research into the image of my own print. Its very personal yet very universal subject when you look closely, and has quite a history that I wanted to look into.



The Psychogeography of the The Right Thumb series has exhibited in two shows, at Royal College of Art in London in the SHOW 2016 and was included in PHOTOMASTERS at PHOTOBLOCK 2016, London. It has also been selected and reviewed in Source Photographic Review Magazine’s Graduate Photography Online 2016 as a selection by Kate Bush (Head of Photography, Science Museum Group). It was featured in the Best of Photography at the RCA Graduate Show in Vogue Italia which was curated by Chiara Bardelli Nonino, (Photo Editor – Vogue Italia – 2016).



I sometimes divide my series into generations which is more like chapters to me. I am done with the first one that I exhibited at RCA Show and part of it in PHOTOMASTERS 2016. I am working on the Gen. II and will be exhibiting it soon along with the previous one in Pakistan for the first time. It would involve projections and will be interactive and again with some more questions about the perception, data analysis and control.

I want to understand photography through different disciplines and materials like mathematics, neuroscience, coding, glass blowing and many more. I am particularly fascinated and interested in Benoit B. Mandelbrot’s writings before 1973 and want to apply for a Phd at Stanford University based on their collection on his work. I am for now focusing on my proposal for Stanford and the Saeed Research Studio that I am about to start in Lahore, Pakistan focusing on researching, making and publishing works from different disciplines and putting together a local community with international friends and people who would be interested to work on similar topics of interest.



All images: © Ayesha Saeed

You can see more of Ayesha Saeed’s work on her website here.

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