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.

 

 

 

The History Project

Over a year ago, The National created a team whose task was to investigate the events leading up to the formation of the United Arab Emirates.  It was a massive undertaking that involved passionate reporters, multimedia producers, photo and magazine editors and last but not least Emirati photo researchers.  We were forced to dig deep for archival footage and photographs mostly taken by foreigners in the 60s and 70s in the UAE.

Assigned the task of editing our main video element, I spent hours scrolling and scrubbing through fascinating, grainy archival film footage from the years leading up to 1971 and the years shortly after the Union.  We were all incredibly proud of the outcome; however its place has been lost on our new website.

Link to last year’s History Project can be found here.

December 2nd 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the Union of the United Arab Emirates. For this year we’ve decided to explore the history of the country through 40 unique objects. With the help of Tina Chang, Deepthi Unnirkrishnan and I spent most of October learning and experimenting with studio lighting. Sometimes we would shoot up in the studio in our building, but sometimes we were forced to transport our equipment to wherever an object was and shoot it there. It’s been a great learning experience, and we’ve handled some incredible historical objects such as a pearl diver’s nose plug, a fetal heart monitor from the Oasis Hospital in Al Ain, Trucial States passport and many more. Our series is released this coming Sunday in the paper and online. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a behind-the-scenes timelapse accompanied by extremely strange music of one of our studio shoots, featuring myself, Deepthi Unnirkishnan, Karen Davies, Brian Kerrigan and Pawel Dwulit.