Why photography can matter in the UAE

When we leave the UAE, I’ll take with me a large framed photograph. My wife already bought me one, of a camel track out in the desert that shows a sliver of the Dubai skyline on the horizon.

But I’d like to purchase more. 

Photography, to me, is the best method to capture the spirit of the UAE. The macro-level wide-angle shots are for posters: the buildings forcing their way upwards, the lights and dust and sand in the air. These are the photographs for people who’ve never been here, and they wouldn’t believe it. It’s the eternal optimism and confidence of Dubai daring you to come to find a life. 

What these posters oftentimes don’t show is the micro-level UAE: Its streets and people. Much of life here is quotidian, but most days, the streets in some neighborhoods bustle with lives and personality. The diverse mixing pot of these neighborhoods are full of fascinating studies in mashing foreign cultures into a mix that is unique to the UAE. 

We have purchased a few of the interesting UAE/Dubai-based photo books by photographers living in the country. These are generally inexpensive but still designed in printed in high style. 

What’s important, though, is that anyone can take a good photo. The popularity of photo apps and photo sharing sites means people understand that, too. It would be nice that we start to see photos from those living directly in these melting pot neighborhoods. Because of their proximity to these scenes, they could grab some very dynamic and personal shots. Even more important, they could offer new fresh interpretations of their neighborhoods and the UAE. In fact, they would be able to offer a window into a world people don’t know exists.