The History Project II

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.

October 4, 2011. Sharjah, Children's Museum. We had locked ourselves into the kids portion of the museum to set up a studio. Here's Deepthi giving the tea-boy some of the Arabic Coffee they had given us through the window as there was no other way to enter or leave without disrupting the set.


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.

Abu Dhabi, The National's Studio - "We need a baby!" Handling one of the first wooden stethoscopes used by the first doctors at the Oasis Hospital in Al Ain (around 1961). This little instrument massively bought down infant mortality rates.

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.




A Little History of the World

I get insanely inspired everytime I walk into Kinokuniya at Dubai Mall, I spend hours in there, clumsily carrying a handful of books that I manage to pick up, walking through various rows, flipping through pages, reading book reviews and analyzing book covers.

As always, I end up with a pile of books I never get down to reading.  I was recently handed E.H Gombrich’s A Little History of the World. The author sounded vaguely familiar, I find out of course he wrote the bible of art history books “The Story of Art”, over 700 pages or so of an art history textbook that I was forced to become best friends with when studying for my AP exams in high school.

Anyway, Gombrich wanted history to be more accessible to children, and thought that if history was explained to a child in simple terms, they would be able to grasp historical events quite easily. He took it upon himself to write this book in six weeks, he would spend his day researching  historical chunks in the library, then spend his nights writing the corresponding chapters.

I’m about halfway through the book, and can I just say I am LOVING it. This book is colorful, informative, and most importantly fairytale-like.  Gombrich writes as if he’s reading a bedtime story to a child.

Something I learnt about whilst reading today was the origins of the Oracle of Delphi. As a child, I was pretty familiar with the story of the Oracle of Delphi, throughout my childhood she appeared in films, cartoons, video games, you name it. Historically, the Delphi temple was in a volcanic region, and in this temple there was a small fissure in the ground where vapour would rise, if anyone inhaled it clouded their minds and made them say silly things which seemed like they were drunk. The Greeks thought god was speaking to them that way and put a priestess to sit over that small fissure while other priests sat there deciphering her babble.

how hilarious is that.

anyway, I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s looking back to getting on the reading train again, it’s totally great.