Having lived in Dubai as a British expat for the past 8 years, like many, I have seen the landscape / cityscape change on a scale like no other city in the world. This initial ‘vision’ was inspired by the skyscrapers of New York City when the UAE royal family visited the Empire State Building in the 1960’s. The evolution of that vision is now becoming a reality, but can Dubai be classed as a photogenic city like New York or Paris where some of the most famous photographers and artists have been inspired?
As a photographer, we are always looking for that new perspective or view point, in order to achieve a balanced composition that reflects and compliments the location. Dubai certainly offers fresh view points and in some instances these vistas are lost in a matter of months due to the ever increasing urban development. However, this purity and freshness is what sets Dubai aside from other iconic cities. I visited New York in July 2016 and it is without doubt one of the most vibrant cities I have ever visited. The architecture, the diversity of culture, the classic skyline - it’s all instantly recognizable due to the indirect marketing in films, dramas and TV footage that’s been filmed there over the years. But like all great cities it had to start somewhere and build its own identity.
Is Dubai now in this transition period of becoming an iconic city? Maybe. However, Dubai cannot be directly compared to New York, Paris or any other global city, it is one on its own. There’s a different culture embedded here and the city reflects this throughout its streets and buildings and is bolstered together with iconic structures such as the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah, Marina Skyline and The World Islands. These are the ‘visions’ that have put Dubai on the world map and these are the most photographed finished concepts in Dubai.
Recently, I have embarked on a photographic project. The idea behind this project is to capture Dubai in black and white and to reveal the hidden corners of the city in contrast to the classic tourist shot of Dubai’s skyscrapers. When researching the locations, I was pleasantly surprised to how many breathtaking opportunities presented themselves. Yes, some of my images would contain the skyline, but the blueprint plan of urban lakes, green parks, solitary beaches and desert landscapes offers a photographer a different perspective of the city’s landscape beauty. By searching for these hidden corners, it began to change my outlook of this conceptual city and made me think that Dubai is becoming more and more iconic.
Going back to my original question – ‘Can Dubai be classed as a photogenic city like New York or Paris where some of the most famous photographers and artists have been inspired? The reason artists are attracted to these two cities are quite possibly the inspirational architecture, the artistic resources and the galleries. Dubai is in that infancy, but ‘art culture’ is growing and flowing through many of the projects and districts that are establishing themselves all over the city. The architecture has taken a stance and projected itself globally attracting expats and tourists to this holidaying hub. The Opera house is complete and galleries are on the increase. The blank canvas is there, we just need the artists to realise the hidden beauty within this amazing city and to put brush to canvas, pencil to paper or eye to camera! This is exactly my intention in executing my most recent photographic project and I truly hope that other artists begin to appreciate this iconic time of change we are all sitting in.