Week 1: 7 photos project: due to an incredibly busy start to the new term (new principal want to shake everything up) much of this had to be done on the hoof. Or was that the intention? Cue several not particularly interesting photos of my everyday life. Was more than slightly awed by the quality of the rest of the cohort’s responses. I suppose that’s the difference between professional photographers and me… Impostor’s syndrome kicking in!
Mission Statement: I am a photographer based in the Middle East whose areas of interest are travel, and documentary photography covering cultures of the Middle East and Asia, as well as fine art photography looking at life in the United Arab Emirates. I have covered subjects as diverse as the ship breaking yards of Bangladesh, the semi-aquatic life of the inhabitants of Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia and how tourism affects the inhabitants of Meroe, Sudan. I am primarily interested in the things that humanity shares as well as the myriad ways in which different cultures manifest their uniqueness.
Product: travel images incorporating landscapes and the people that inhabit them. Most importantly, images that go beyond what the average visitor may encounter, and seek to depict what every day life is like for people in many different corners of the globe. These images are suitable for publication in both print and on the web and can be used in conjunction with written reportage (which I can also provide if required) or independently as images only. I can also provide prints of exhibition quality.
Market: With my current series, produced as part of a Master of arts program, I intend the images to be sold as prints and to form part of a book with accompanying text. I would also be available to conduct workshops and photographic tours of Dubai and its surrounding areas.
Week 3: Image virus
I loved this challenge. Though still hard pressed to find time outside of work, I set up an Instagram account for @deadhandphoto and an email address. I used a photo of the hand of a mannequin which appeared to be grasping a card for a beauty salon – a ‘found’ (in Dadaist terms) concoction from the disposal area at school. I printed out cards with the picture on the front and the email address on the back, which I left wherever I went in Dubai (always cautious of the stringent local laws against touts leaving cards for ‘massage parlours’ on car windscreens – a bane that anyone who has lived here will recognise). I also published the photo in a few configurations on the Instagram page. Then I used the advantage of the fact that I work with large numbers of teenagers to get the word out. Within an hour of my 6th form literature lesson, the account details had been passed through their friends via Snapchat and other similarly (to me) arcane ways. I also followed the slightly cynical course of following whomever Instagram recommended. I ended the exercise with ten times the thirty followers that had been suggested.
Week 4: A Marketing Plan
This was another activity that pushed me so far outside of my comfort zone that I kept putting it off until it was too late to post – though I did nevertheless do it…
- To raise my profile as a photographer in the UAE
- To become part of the Dubai photographic ‘scene’
- To develop my social media presence on both Facebook and Instagram
- To sell at least one print
- To approach a gallery owner or director in Dubai
- To start a portfolio to be used for promotional purposes
- To be active in a Dubai-based photographic society
- To approach coffee shop managers as a possible outlet for exhibition and raised presence
- Comprehensively update my portfolio website
This is scary stuff! Particularly in light of the incredible plans posted on Canvas – I really feel I need the tentative steps first as I am not a professional photographer and I do not know the market here in Dubai yet – that is actually the main objective.
Week 5: Networking:
My networking was spread out a little further than a week as I was travelling in Ukraine for a while, but:
- 1) Joined the Dubai chapter of the RPS
- 2) Took place in an exhibition with a local photography group – the Shutterbugs
- 3) Took part in a guided photowalk over Diwali with the director of GPP – a major Dubai gallery and creative space
The RPS seems like a good group, with many talented photographers. I will continue to attend their meetings and gatherings with the next one being in two weeks’ time.
The Shutterbugs group are numerous and enthusiastic and I will keep up with them the best I can.
Mohamed, the director of GPP is a valuable contact to have made and a really nice guy too.
The main assignment was another very scary one as I hate talking to strangers. In the end it was a combination of serendipity and (slight) cheating that got me through, albeit a week late. I had been taking more pictures in the Al Sufouh area of Dubai which combines some old-fashioned (ie 1990s) Emirati housing with a scattering of new developments. I bumped into somebody I already knew, albeit very, very vaguely and undertook the assignment from her point of view.
I was travelling through Ukraine for most of the last 10 days. However, before I left, I was involved in an exhibition through the Dubai chapter of the RPS here in the UAE. The arrangement was that each member would pay 900aed (about 180GBP) and submit 4 tiff files. The RPS then arranged printing framing, hanging and refreshments for the opening (below)
Each print was offered for sale for 700aed (about 140gbp) which would be split 70/30 with the RPS. However, as we warned beforehand, the market for photographic prints in the UAE is weak, at best, and despite me choosing what I felt were the most commercially available (for Dubai) shots, none sold. However, after the exhibition ended two days ago and I brought the prints home, a visiting friend offered me 500aed for one of them. So that’s a hundred quid and my first ever sale…
In retrospect, the RPS and affiliated group, though wonderful people, are probably not the best way forward in terms of anything more than possibly making my presence as a photographer known and joining field trips to look at different aspects of photography in Dubai. From Sarah and Krishna’s feedback on the exercise, I have ordered business cards for any such future exhibitions and will spend more time in Alserkal Avenue (other than at GPP) looking into prospective markets/outlets/openings.
I found the main task very difficult indeed – at first I had no ideas whatsoever, an then I only had the ideas that others had published. The audience I would want to reach would be those with an interest in art and, specifically, photobooks. This is a very narrow group in the UAE and I would need to look at digital publishing and internet sales. However, this doesn’t seem to lend itself to physical printing. Ideas that occurred were postcards, business card-sized prints and bookmarks. Postcards would stand the possibility of being lost among so many other postcard-sized media, flyers, inserts etc. I liked the business card idea, possibly based on the back of the viral photograph exercise, but again, the actual distribution could prove problematic with general distribution being illegal (thanks to the millions of massage parlour cards left on parked cards every day). Bookmarks may make an impact in the environment in which books would be sold, but again the UAE is not known for its grand reading habits (I always say you can tell the soul of a place by the distribution of shelves in the local bookshop – here the business section is the same size as the rest of the bookshop put together) and with a largely transient population, e-readers are very much the medium of choice. In the end, I decided that when I am in the situation to have a product to promote, I will look into cards and bookmarks; though at the moment costs would be too high without a final product.
Week 8: Another interesting and challenging assignment, given my extremely limited involvement with the commercial side of life.
PO Box 6446
United Arab Emirates
Estimate for 25 images (printed; social media; web use; outdoors media), 5 years’ usage.
All prices in GBP, exclusive of VAT and required permits.
Shooting fees (2-5 days, weather depending) 4500
Assistant (2-5 days) 2000
Vehicle rental 250
Lighting rental 5 x 250 1250
Planning and recce 0.5 x 900 450
Post production 450
Usage fees 5 years @ 500 p.a. 2500
Ultimately, I am not sure how much practical use this is to me given the state of my current practice, but it was nevertheless very interesting to see the actual breakdown of a professional shoot for a client.