Part 5 Exercise 5.1


Your viewpoint is the source of your imagination and ideas but it can be quite a long journey to bring it to the light.

Exercise 5.1

Instructions for exercise 5.1  were to Find a subject that you have empathy for and take a sequence of shots to explore ‘the distance between you’. 

Pick the best shot and evaluate the best shot. Look critically at the work and include what you didn’t shoot.

Exercise 1.4 was referenced as an example.

I thought about what has the most distance with me personally, who would look at me and say they had along way to go to understand me.

I thought about the construction workers, taxi drivers and Abra drivers and I decided to go visit the Bur Dubai side of the creek.

I haven’t been down the souk area of Dubai for a long time. It is still quite hot outside but I knew that the souk would give some shade. I am not keen on portraits they are not something I do regularly. It’s a skill getting a portrait of a complete stranger but I persevered.

I had fun talking to the RTA guys about the abras and the hours they work. I got told they names, the guys found it hilarious when I tried to pronounce their names and I’m not even going to attempt spelling them. They all knew where Manchester was because of the Manchester city Football club.

The RTA guys love the tourists and to be honest you can get away with most questions if they think you are a tourist. So in broken English and lots of Shukrans I tried to bridge a bit of that distance. Some of the guys had been here in Dubai a long time and they all said they liked living here. Most had family to support and found Dubai a good place for them.

Business was quiet so they posed for pictures for me.

The Sikh Guys are air conditioning engineers who were fixing an AC unit in a shop. They were watching me trying to take a picture of a lantern in the souk. I nearly blinded myself trying to get a shot with the sun inside the lantern. One of them called to me to a lantern that was in the shadows. He laughed and we chatted in broken English about where I was from. They let me take their pictures which I was grateful for. The guys then pointed to an alley way where I should take photos because it was a festival at the Hindu temple. I said I admired their beards and they laughed. The alleyway with the temple in was restrictive but interesting. Some of the images from the alley are in the contact sheets.


I like the composition of this shot and the blueness


I was stood waiting for something to happen that would catch my eye. I noticed that the Abras were moving in the water, backwards and forwards , I waited till the bows formed an arch and took this shot. I’m going to go back down to the quayside with a wide angle lens to get all the boats in and hope I get the same situation again.

ABra portrait

This guy was quite cheerful I asked to take ‘a picture’ and he went into an ID pose.

Five RTA guys

Four guys were chatting then the guy off the abra came and joined them, they asked me for a picture. So I got low down as I wanted a bit of the background in. Why is the drinks machine there ? I don’t know I didn’t even notice it probably because it was just a continuance of blue from the shirts. Lots of peace signs and palm trees.


I wanted a image of the guys feet, I had to do this quick.


They are always on their phone. They all have the latest phones I’m sure this is a status thing. Funny egg shaped lamp just above the guys head ? I didn’t notice that

RTA guy - tissue

I caught this guy wiping his face with tissue to remove the sweat from it. He wanted a picture taken of himself.


RTA employees on their lunch break


Doesn’t look so friendly but he was very helpful.


Very Majestic. The light in the souk is good first thing in the morning but not at midday. I asked him to move in to the shadows to get a better view of his face.This was second favourite.


Back street washing lines


Irony of Old and new side by side typical of Dubai. Cars and phones are common status symbols.

RTA guy - Creekside Cafe

Camera settings- F 6.4  ,fl  44mm, ISO 200

Environmental portrait of RTA guy

This is my pick

I asked to come on to his abra to take a picture of him. It was empty and he was waiting to be called when needed. It was his break time, so he was checking his phone. I told him I just wanted pictures not a tour and he smiled and said ok. The Abra started to rock as another abra went by on the creek but I stepped onto it via the steps at the quayside. I could hear voices shouting him and laughing as I knelt to take a picture. His work colleagues were making fun of him getting his picture taken by a women on his abra. He just smiled and after I said Shukran he waved politely at me. Then he waved at his colleagues.

My intention

I wanted the creek in the background so when looking at the image you know where the guy is. I didn’t go in tight because the light was getting strong as it was getting close to midday so we were in the shade.  The guy sat relaxed, he came off his phone and posed I took two images. I went portrait because I wanted the roof of the Abra in the shot. Once, when I did a photography workshop at GPP,  a prominent photographer commented that “All’ my pictures were landscape so now I am self aware of what position my camera is in. I remember that comment every single time I ‘chimp’ through my images.

What you can’t see is the rest of the Abras and the advertisements on the roof. I wanted to portray the existence of this guy. He works on the creek and for 5 dirhams he will take you across the water on an abra.

The image

To the left side of the image in the background is the Deira side of the creek, Old Dubai with its traditional dhows used to travel across the Persian gulf, further back are the buildings which are offices and business buildings.  The shot is in colour because the Abras have plastic covers on the sitting areas these remind me of patterns from 70’s table cloths. The orange colour is reflected up and half the right side of the frame is warm with the orange from the plastic cover, fire extinguisher and the lifebuoy and the other half of the frame is blue from the guys shirt and the water of the creek. The lifebuoys and fire extinguisher are for the safety of the tourists since a lot of Abras are old, you can see the aged wood of the boat and one sandal is off to the side, he is on a break so he has taken them off.

His phone is held as it is a valuable possession and probably costs more that what he earns in a month. Most of the RTA guys have better, up to date phones than me and it amuses me how especially here in Dubai, everyone scrambles for the latest gadgets regardless of cost. It reminds me of the kids story ‘The emperor’s new clothes’.

Contact sheets


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