UAE-based photographers Michael Glenister, Nitin Mallapur, Christopher Osborne and Bernhard Sperling are presenting Perspectives, a joint exhibition that explores the changing landscape of the UAE from their unique perspectives. The artists are professionals from different fields who share a love for photography and met through the Analogue Photography in UAE group.
Glenister, a professional photographer from South Africa has captured the beauty, tranquillity and vast emptiness of the desert around Al Ain in a series of poetic photographs titled, Solitude. “There is something incredibly peaceful about the desert. It is alive, but at the same time it is one of the most still, quiet landscapes in the world. I go there often to escape from the fast pace of life in the UAE and it is always a therapeutic, meditative and reinvigorating experience. This country and its landscape are changing rapidly, but I wanted to capture a sense of how this area has looked for most of its existence and to convey a sense of beginning,” Glenister says.
Mallapur’s black and white photographs taken on the streets of old Dubai are from a series titled, Then There Was Light. The Indian artist, who works in the oil industry has focused on the lines and patterns created by the light and shadows giving his images a painterly quality. Each composition is carefully constructed to show a single presence in an urban landscape, capturing quiet moments in a busy city.
“Dubai is famous for its iconic skyscrapers, but these areas with heritage buildings and traditional souqs are the heart of the city and a reminder of the past. Through the play of light and shade I have tried to capture a kind of geometric beauty cast across old Dubai,” Mallapur says.
Osborne, an airline pilot from the UK is showing two series of black and white analogue photographs titled, Transient and Nostalgic Arabia. Transient celebrates the cultural diversity of the UAE as well as the transient nature of the community of expatriates living here.
“The people in my photographs have grown up in vastly different places and environments, but they share a similar story. They are all here in the UAE to earn money to support their families and work towards creating a better future for themselves in their homelands. I wanted to highlight the breadth of cultures in the UAE that coexist peacefully as well as the transient nature of individuals in a social environment that is unique to the Middle East,” Osborne says
“This region has strict privacy laws, so I also wanted to depict the place without showing any faces in my pictures. But ironically when I walk around taking pictures on the streets many people are eager to have their pictures taken and people of some nationalities consider it an honour to be photographed. This is an interesting contrast embedded in my images,” he adds.
In the Nostalgic Arabia series Osborne has focused on the forms and textures of simple objects such as buoys hanging off a dhow on the creek, an abra tethered to a bollard and a rope lying on a coral rock to create compelling photographs that invite viewers to contemplate Dubai’s history, heritage and long-standing trade links with ports around the world.
“It took me a long time to make each print and I like the fact that a sense of the passage of time is inherent in the process itself,” Osborne says.
Sperling, a banker from Germany is known in the analogue photography group for his technical expertise and his constant experimentation with new ideas and techniques. He is showing his Circle series where he has experimented with a fish-eye lens to create circular images that capture the texture and colours of old Dubai.
“A fish-eye lens takes a 180-degree view and is meant for weather observation. But I love to venture into the unknown, so I decided to use this big, heavy technical lens for street photography. It was challenging and not good for my back, but I like the effect it creates as if each scene is a little world by itself,” Sperling says.
His colourful circular images capture typical Dubai scenes such as containers being loaded at the port, sunrise on the creek, labourers resting under the shade of a tree, and the contrast between the modern skyline and the low-rise buildings. The depth of the images, the three-dimensional effect created by the lens and the distortion around the edges offers an unusual perspective of the city. The images convey various emotions and the sense of trade and commerce that pervades the city. They are like portals drawing in viewers to delve deeper and contemplate familiar sights in a new way.
Perspectives will run at The Empty Quarter Gallery in DIFC until August 31