ABU DHABI: Photographer Waleed Shah, a resident of Abu Dhabi, believes the old parts of any city have great stories to tell. He has just completed a photography project of capturing, or rather recapturing, the “forgotten” parts of Dubai in order to re-establish their connection with the city’s longtime residents.
The shoot was an extension of a similar project he undertook in Abu Dhabi last year that saw him post a series of images of the ‘old capital’ on his blog and Instagram, all of which elicited an overwhelming response.
“There may only be a handful of kids (who were growing up here in 1990s) in Abu Dhabi who didn’t visit the Action Zone, or hardly any family that hasn’t heard of the Lebanese Flower Bakery. Similarly, there’s hardly any man who has never visited a local barber shop, like the ones in Satwa,” says Shah, who has worked for over 10 years in the oil and gas industry, adding that his works are aimed at evoking nostalgia.
Shah believes his work not only brings back fond memories for long-time residents but also helps strike a chord with new comers to the UAE.
In order reach out to as many people as possible, he partnered with renowned Instagram names in the UAE. For the Abu Dhabi series, titled Throwback Abu Dhabi, he partnered with Azza Al Mughairy of Abu Dhabi TV who modelled for the photoshoot that was held at several ‘old’ areas.
“We went to the Old Souk on Hamdan Bin Mohammad Street, Al Muroor bus station, Mariah Mall Cinema, Action Zone, the old underpass at the Corniche. The response to these pictures was phenomenal. People wrote to me about how they miss these ‘hangout’ spots and how the pictures brought back childhood memories,” says Shah, who refuses to disclose his nationality.
“I never answer that question. We all have borrowed from each other’s cultures in some away or the other. I cannot claim to be a part of a certain country, we are all one,” he says.
The Dubai project, says Shah, actually began as a fashion shoot but turned into a nostalgia series eventually. This time around he collaborated with fashion blogger Tala Samman.
“When we went to old parts of Dubai, mainly Satwa, we didn’t decide on doing the same thing we did in Abu Dhabi,” says Shah. These works are now making Dubai residents reminisce their good old days. "
A comment on Shah’s Instagram feed reads: “Everyone is always thinking of doing a fashion shoot at La Mer or the likes of it. This photo shoot in the midst of Old Dubai is so much deeper and meaningful for someone like me who grew up in these alleys.”
Another user who thought Shah portrayed a beautiful blend of cultures commented, “For me Waleed’s pictures are a true testimony to the nature of the UAE. People from different nationalities and different financial backgrounds live in harmony and this is what the pictures depict.”
When asked if he plans on doing the same for the other emirates, Shah says, Dubai wasn’t planned, but it happened. “At the moment I’m not sure if I’d do this for other emirates, but it’s definitely a thriving idea,” he adds.