Instant UAE by Silvia Razgova

  • Portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan oversees the traffic on the Sheikh Zayed road. All photos by Silvia Razgova
  • Young boys enjoy a ride on one of the the Emirates Palace' camels in Abu Dhabi.
  • A lone biker makes his way through on a sandy road in the Satwa neighborhood in Dubai.
  • Iconic UAE architecture: the Aldar headquarters on Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi, the Burj Khalifa and the Burj al Arab in Dubai, and the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.
  • Quiet moments on the beach at the Heritage Village, and a group of friends soak up the evening sun on the Abu Dhabi Breakwater Corniche.
  • School girls, local artisans and a man pose for portraits in the Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi.
  • Passengers and a driver ride an abra, and an Iranian sailor washes up on a traditional dhow on the Dubai creek.
  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
  • Heritage Village workers at the Breakwater Corniche in Abu Dhabi.
  • Backed by the Abu Dhabi skyline, a small boat caries people into the evening light.
  • A display of traditional Emirati clothing and spices at the Spice Souk at the Dubai Creek.
  • Interrupted from their lunch of bread, pigeons fly up toward a minaret at the Dubai Creek's souk area.
  • Portraits of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and HH Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of UAE and the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, hang at the Emirates Palace; and young Emirati boys hang out and talk near the al Wasl neighborhood in Dubai.

When I was handed a refurbished Polaroid camera from the 1980s and told to go play tourist, I smelled adventure.

Photojournalists work within tight guidelines compared to most professional photographers, so it’s great to be given some creative freedom. The handicap of having to work with a far more basic camera than usual was offset by the licence to roam and to shoot in a non-assignment, non-literal way. I had a total of 60 frames available (three packages of Polaroid film) and, contrary to my initial assumption, the limitation of the number of frames provided was quite freeing.

As my perception of the value of each frame and each opportunity increased, my process changed. I slowed down and became selective about pressing the shutter. That gave me the time not only to see but also to hear and smell everything around me, which is not only freeing but also educational. Making a good image means recording more than visual facts.

Walking around with a rather retro camera hanging around my neck, I found my curiosity better tolerated. Folks seemed to trust me more, because how much “damage” can one do with a Polaroid camera? Besides, the proof popped right out of the camera. “Oh, how cool. Can I keep it?” Trust became palpable and the pictures an object. The subject’s experience was enhanced. Digital files don’t evoke that feeling.

* Silvia Razgova

Also see Polaroid instantly changed photography and its legacy lives on