“Perspectives” is an exhibition examining change within the UAE. The exhibition is organised into six chapters and is a collaboration by five UAE photographers:
|Then There Was Light||Nitin Mallapur|
|Nostalgic Arabia||Christopher Osborne|
|Streets of Stories||Juan Pablo Ramirez|
“Solitude” creates an uneasy calm when viewing this beautiful, but almost haunting series of images in the desert areas surrounding Al Ain. “I wanted to capture a sense of beginning”, says Glenister. “There is something incredibly peaceful about the desert. It is alive, but at the same time, it is surely one of the most still quiet natural landscapes in the world”?
He goes on to point out that while the UAE has been populated for at last five millennia, he has captured a senses of how the area has appeared for the majority of the time. “It’s really in the last two centuries that we have seen an explosion of the human population”. When asked what prompted him to make this series, Glenister explains that he has repeatedly journeyed to the desert as a form of escape from the fast pace of life in the UAE. Each visit has been a kind of therapy, a chance to recharge, and provides an opportunity to consider.
Perhaps the repeated use of a single tree against the beautiful desert-scape is in a way a metaphor for his only lonely presence in this vast landscape?
Then There Was Light
“Then There Was Light” takes us on a journey around old Dubai, capturing flashes of life amongst strange geometric shadows and patterns contrasting against harsh beams of sunlight.
“I trained as in finance” explains Mallapur, “so it is natural for me to express my view of the world in terms of mathematics. In capturing a kind of geometric beauty cast across old Dubai, there is a parallel to life carrying on in the remnants of an older time”.
Each image has been carefully constructed to show a single presence in an urban landscape. Anonymous figures are lost in their own worlds, and are a reminder that no matter how crowded a city may be, that there are always moments when we are alone.
“Transient” captures the temporary nature of the urban landscape in a place in which over eighty five percent of the population live today, yet most of them will leave sooner or later due to the constant coming and going of expatriates and migrant workers.
In compiling this body of work, Osborne seeks to celebrate Dubai’s cultural diversity. While many of his subjects have grown up in vastly different backgrounds, they all share a similar story. They are all in the UAE to earn money to support families, and to create a better future for the time when they return to the place that they call home. All find a way to live peacefully together, despite their differences of culture. All enjoy the winter climate, and equally, all sweat during the blisteringly hot summers.
Osborne examines not only the identity of a physical area, or highlights the breadth of cultures, but creates a picture of the transient nature of individuals in a social environment unique to the Middle East. This work highlights the temporary nature of the majority of the population, thus creating a depth beyond the clichéd contrast of hand loaded wooden trading vessels moored next to a road bustling with expensive Japanese 4×4’s.
Embedded in this series of images is another contrast too. Some nationalities, particularly those from the East are literally honoured to have their image taken. As a photographer, it is common to be by men asking me to take their picture. Yet, for now, they live in a completely different society. One which has designed and implemented some of the most protective privacy laws in the world designed to preserve the ideals and individual rights of the most conservative groups in society against the modern intrusions of the paparazzi and social media.
Nostalgic ArabiaOsborne heads off in a different direction with his “Nostalgic Arabia” series. Familiar iconic shapes and textures of Dubai are presented in dark tones that capture the beauty of everyday Dubai items in a way that we recognise, yet may not have seen before. This work presents both a stylised perspective, and yet has a deeply traditional aesthetic at the same time.
Streets of Stories
Every time people hear about the UAE, all they hear about is how luxurious Dubai and Abu Dhabi are, but not a lot of people know that there is another side to the country that, although not luxurious, is magical. In this project, Juan Pablo Ramirez wanted to experience that magic on a personal level through the lens of his camera. He has had the opportunity to spend time and listen to the stories of the Iranian sailors parked by the Dubai Creek, the haystack farmers in Al Faqaa, the Bengali fishermen in Kalba and Dubai, and the Pehlwani wrestlers in Dubai among other sub cultures living in the country. These are some of the most emblematic and iconic places in the country that need to be preserved.
At first, they were unsure about what Juan was doing when he walked around with his camera, but after a few days they wanted to know just as much about him as he wanted to know about them. Things like the way he dressed, or why he used white cream on my face to protect myself from the sun, were incredible to them. In their eyes, he was an alien, and in Juan’s eyes, they were aliens as well.
After almost a year of being completely immersed in their culture both Juan and his subjects have all realized that they are not as different as they thought they were at the beginning. Each has different ways of thinking and doing certain things, but equally all parties also share the common interest of trying to enjoy our life as much as we can with what we have. All work hard to satisfy their needs, but for them, it’s a way of life. This is the story of people with hope, who might never be famous or well known. The story of everyday people who enjoy the simplicity of life and make the best out of it. This is Streets of Stories UAE.
“Circle”, in contrast, bursts into colour. Large circular images capture the texture and palette of older Dubai through a strange circular fish-eye aesthetic.
“I have always been the guy who wanted to know how things are done, and if it can’t be done, I am the guy who will be trying it out” says Sperling. “When it was suggested that you couldn’t represent a place with just circular images, well, that was a challenge”!
One finds oneself peering into each image, and feels an indescribable need to look past the saturated rainbow of colour, and odd perspectives right into the image. Each image forces a re-evaluation of something familiar and yet distant in our psyche.
This collection captures not only the architecture, and colour of a brilliant sunshine day in Dubai, but a sense of trade and commerce, perhaps a reflection of Sperling’s previous experience in the finance sector?
A collaborative exhibition at The Empty Quarter Gallery
5 August – 17 September 2018