Berlin-based photographer Matthias Heiderich specializes in architecture and landscapes. His series UAE was photographed in the winter of 2013 in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He recently talked to us about the two places.
What were the challenges of shooting in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) versus other shooting you have done?
“Shooting in the UAE isn’t very problematic. The only challenge in my opinion is the climate. It was pretty hot, although it was winter. It was around 30°C during the day with high air humidity but most of the time the light situation was great. It was very sunny, almost too bright around noon, but for my kind of photography this was perfect.”
What were your impressions of Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
“Dubai itself is a very modern city, it has a new Metro system which works perfectly, so it’s easy to get from one place to another. Also you find all of the shops and restaurants western cities have. The city is full of construction sites and new skyscrapers are being built everywhere, although it seems the ones already built are mostly empty. The city center is a huge financial district which was built in only a couple of years. It was quite impressive to see all of the buildings, although there is a slight dystopian feel to it. It felt like a sci-fi movie sometimes—empty, clean, and isolated in some areas of the city, while others were very crowded and polluted.
“Abu-Dhabi is a bit different from Dubai, the change is happening more slowly there and the contrasts are even more visible. They are building huge skyscrapers in the middle of the city next to older buildings. The UAE is very different from Europe, and status symbols and consumption are extremely important. Religion plays a fundamental role in the UAE. The social differences are huge and the middle class is missing. The rich class is from the UAE, while the working class is from Southeast Asia and there only to work. It’s a cultural clash, but so far it seems to work quite well—it felt very peaceful and secure all the time.”