The mad scramble during assignment days leaves very little room for reflection and introspection. I’ve therefore decided to take a little bit of time in the past week to curate a gallery of the quieter photographic moments that have occurred in 2013. These photographs don’t necessarily represent the most exciting assignments in the past year, but these people’s stories have continued to resonate with me well past my allocated time with them. Nonetheless it’s important as a photographer to visualise tangible underlying photographic patterns in my work, especially when it’s displayed in an online gallery in chronological order. Here’s to 2014 – it’s time to push narrative and technical boundaries even further – Happy New Year.
I came across the Jafiliya Basketball Court and its community entirely by accident whilst walking around the Satwa area shooting one evening. Two Filipino guys decked out in bright purple and yellow basketball jerseys – not the usual Satwa attire – casually walked out of their apartment building, they caught my eye and I followed them to the court. “You should come on Saturday night,” they said, and so I did, actually I went for the next 5 or 6 Saturdays after that too.
The Jafiliya Basketball Court is the fulcrum of Kababayan social activity in the Satwa area. It is a place where men come to shed the stresses of the daily grind of working in Dubai, shoot some hoops and participate in a team sport, where girlfriends, wives and fiancees cheer on their significant others and where expat children absorb musings on Tagalog slang and culture they otherwise wouldn’t learn in their everyday UAE school environment. Tournaments are organized every few months, with designated coaches and players, printed out jerseys, referees and volunteers manning the logistics of the games. Games take place usually after work hours, so everyone in the community has a chance to come down, hang out and watch. They call this “Tambayan” in Tagalog meaning a place to hang out and not necessarily do anything.
The people that visited the courts almost every night came to know me quite well, they welcomed me with open arms, shared their stories with me and were happy that someone was not only photographing the winning team but also the strongly-built community they were so fondly proud of.
The UAE’s 40th anniversary had been looming over us for about 6 months; we knew we had to provide readers, viewers and listeners something unique that contributed to understanding the UAE’s very short albeit accelerated history. Soon enough, 40@40 was born. 40@40 was the (almost impossible) brain-child of our Multimedia Editor Karen Davies and students from NYU Abu Dhabi’s Al Hemyan Project. The aim was to visually depict the history of the United Arab Emirates through 40 unique objects. Our deadline? The nation’s 40th birthday. Let the treasure hunt begin.
Not only did we have to ask around to find these objects, appeal to collectors, citizens or long-term residents who may have barely found value in these items, but we also had to find the sources articulate and knowledgeable enough to speak about them. We began shooting our first object in late July, and ended shooting our last object around the beginning of November. Shoots ranged from in-studio shoots, to “on-the-road” make-shift shoots where we essentially had to set-up and light a believable studio environment in the weirdest, tiniest and hottest of spaces.
The main initial challenge for Deepthi (Multimedia producer at The National) and I was studio lighting. We always knew how to work with available light, no matter how tricky it was, we would figure out a way to make it work. But with studio lighting we were just kind of…thrown into it. Thankfully, fashion photographer Tina Chang and Photo Editor Brian Kerrigan gave us a good ol’ guidance push and then we were sent flying.
Aching backs, lots of sweat induced by ridiculous humidity, broken fingernails, pangs of hunger and thirst went into shooting, editing and producing this project. We also had some good laughs, poking fun of ourselves and the fact that we were entrusted to handle invaluable objects with such great care.
The project was well-received by Emiratis and expats alike. Ultimately, we really hoped it would provide the people of UAE with a visually compelling resource on the nation’s development in under half a century. We were also sooooo happy to hear that the project won 3rd place at NPPA’s January Monthly Multimedia Contest. Click here or the main image at the top of the page to go to the 40@40 site.
I had the absolutely pleasure of shooting on location with fashion photographer Tina Chang and model Mitch Baker at The Pavilion Downtown Dubai a few weeks ago. I enjoy working with Tina and really admire her lighting techniques and shooting style. I never thought I’d be interested in fashion photography, I don’t know too much about designers and brands, you’d never see me flipping through Vogue either. However, this production has been vastly different from what I normally do and the stories I usually cover so it’s been quite the breath of fresh air.
It was difficult to figure out this edit, I went through various sequences and cuts until I figured out what felt right. I initially tried to capture Tina and Mitch’s friendship whilst working on location – however that didn’t translate to video too much so I had to play and experiment with different angles of telling the story. Hope you like it!
This was by far the most fun I have ever had on a shoot. Deepthi Unnirkrishnan, and Edythe Mcnamee, the other two multimedia producers came along for just for kicks. We ended up wrapping up the Canon video camera as much as we could with cello tape, in fear of the powdered colors that may pour into the lens and nooks and crannies of the camera. We then arrived onto the scene wearing (as we should) white t shirts. The whole vibe on the beach was absolutely fantastic, powdered colors everywhere, random people coming up to us and rubbing hot pinks, oranges, blues and greens onto our faces and t-shirts. Everyone there was having a great time. Definitely aiming to shoot Holi in India in March 2011 with the Canon 5D MKII.