I began exploring the world of photography in 1977 at the age of 12 when I was in Kuwait. I came to Saudi Arabia in 1983 for colleague education, and began discovering the obstacles photographers encounter. The hobby itself was frowned upon, not to mention making a career out of it. In 1988, I settled down in Riyadh and started my career in the IT industry. One day, I was walking from the office to my car with my camera on my shoulder, and a police car screeched to a stop next to me with the officer asking me in a harsh tone of voice "What are you doing with that camera?".. I was really shocked, and asked "All that just for the camera? Besides, I have no film in it.. Why don't you go ban it from the stores?"
I kept thinking: is this the kind of attitude photographers in Saudi Arabia have to endure to enjoy their hobbies or profession?! Really scary.
Over the years, authorities and the community lightened up quite a bit, and it's more or less accepted as a hobby (with a grain of salt). Photography in public places is not always permitted, you just need to be cautious and use your best judgement. Saudi Arabian photographers are getting more and more exposure and gaining traction in the business, across all its sectors.
just like any business, you have The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly among photographers:
The Good: Photographers who produce quality work, willing to share the knowledge & experience, professional in their attitude towards clients and fellow photographers.
The Bad: Photographers who produce mediocre quality, selfish, arrogant, and lack the discipline of the professional world.
The Ugly: Photographers who produce ordinary & unexceptional work, however, they resort to unethical exploits to gain the business.
I'm very pleased to see the good kind flourishing more than others, and hope the residue of all those hurdles would permanently go away :)