Behind the camera: The other facade of Dubai
Dubai is known for its record-breaking buildings, posh lifestyle and its reputation for being a “getaway for a rich man”, but one photographer is pushing to shed light on the other parts of the city.
Jalal Abuthina, a Dubai-based photographer and visual artist, is a third-culture young man, who is the son of a Libyan father and an Irish mother. He came to Dubai with his family in 1993 and grew a strong bond with the city of Dubai, including all of its facets.
Earlier this year, Abuthina launched three photography books highlighting what he called “everyday realities of the city, more specifically the unglamorous and under-exposed side of the city, which is actually its heart beat and most authentic element,” he tells AMEinfo, all under the larger theme of seeing what’s “Inside Dubai”.
The books, titled The Best of Dubai Shop Names, Memories of Satwa and Dubai: Inside Dubai – the last is also the name of his brand – are a collection of hundreds of photographs he took growing up in the city, especially focusing on street photography and capturing normal day-to-day life events in the emirate’s older neighborhoods and districts.
According to the photographer, the series is “mostly about the people and the everyday realities of Dubai… There are a lot of layers to what’s going on and many different elements that combine to create what is actually the real Downtown Dubai.”
Abuthina told AMEinfo that the oldest picture in the series was taken in 2002 and the newest in 2015.
All three books are currently available for sale now at three retail locations around Dubai: Kinokuniya at The Dubai Mall, Jashanmal bookstore at Mall Of the Emirates and Dubai Festival City, and at Gulf Photo Plus at Alserkal Avenue. They will soon be available for online purchases.
Setting the record straight
While the shelves of Dubai’s bookstores are not short of books and photography books about the emirate, Abuthina provides his point of view on what makes his series different from the rest.
“Most of them [photography books about Dubai] are about the history of the city, like old photographs. So, [they are] more like historical accounts of what happened in Dubai,” he says.
“But in terms of contemporary accounts of what’s happening in the city today, photographically or visually speaking, there isn’t really anything; it’s mostly just about buildings and about the new tourist destinations,” he adds.
His exposure to both old and new Dubai while growing up, combined with his experience working as a private tour guide, sparked in Abuthina a need to fill a gap he saw in Dubai’s presentation to the world.
“There is a lot of misrepresentation about Dubai and many people think there isn’t much beyond buildings and shopping… So, I kind of took it upon myself to create a form of representation about the other elements, to try to educate people who don’t have access to what goes on outside the standard tourist areas,” he said.
For that reason, on the first day of 2013, Abuthina decided to compile the random yet beautiful images found in his archives into a product that could be shared with the world.
“The city is developing incredibly rapidly and it needs – in my opinion, especially for the sake of representation – some kind of reflection of the counter narrative of what Dubai is believed to be,” he notes.
“This is an independently produced project, so it is non-commercial, not tied to any form of sponsorship or commercial entity and it is self-published as well,” he says, claiming that this is the only self-published photography book on Dubai to be found on the shelves today.