It is subtly humorous, the photographs were captured on an iPhone and most of the writing was scribbled on a notepad. Yet, the new, unconventional travel magazine We Are Here, with the first issue focusing on Dubai, offers readers interesting and quirky information about the city - of the sort which cannot be found in most glossy travel magazines.
We Are Here is a magazine incorporating a mixture of essays, fiction, poetry and humour. Much of the content is written by local residents, be they writers, artists or poets, sharing their take on and experiences of a given city. It is now available at bookstores across the UAE and is published by Wndr Media and distributed by Jashanmal. Purcell, who is also the editor of Open Skies, Emirates Airline's inflight magazine and the author of The Dubai 50, says the magazine will be published up to three times a year, with future possibilities covering Libya or Osaka in Japan.
"The idea for the first issue is to give a snapshot of Dubai or a long-form postcard, with articles you would not often find. This is the type of magazine you could keep for many years," he says.
Districts of popular cities, such as Soho in London or Harlem in New York, may also be covered. Sharjah and Abu Dhabi are also on the list.
We Are Here will also be distributed internationally across Asia and Europe, online and in various art galleries.
The goal is to include as many local voices as possible, to provide readers with a good idea of the location, its culture, history and people - as opposed to featuring writers who simply pass through for a few days.
A peek inside
The 132-page Dubai issue includes content featuring old neighbourhoods such as Desert Springs Village, poetry by the UAE-based Nigel Holt and quotes by the British actor and travel writer Michael Palin - taken from his Around the World in 80 Days journey of 1988, during which he passed through the UAE. Another feature looks at the Role Playing Geeks, a growing subculture that has exploded in popularity following this year's first Middle East Film and Comic Con.
"We also have a How to Write About Dubai section, which is very tongue-in-cheek," says Purcell. "We Are Here is essentially a great platform for local artists and writers to have their work seen. Our website is up and running and offers teaser articles."
With 95 per cent of the images taken with iPhones, including the grainy cover photograph, the magazine steers clear of the usual glittering skyscraper images and manages to arouse a refreshing curiosity. The cover photo is of an undisclosed street, which could be "anywhere" in Dubai and is more "representative of the city", says Purcell.
In fact, most of the photographs are unconventional. Even the pictures for the advertisers of We Are Here Dubai were taken by Purcell himself. For example, with Puma, Purcell took images of real residents spotted wearing the brand, in a natural environment on the city's streets.
Hitting the global stands
The challenge now is to get global publicity and Purcell has already targeted social media to spread the word.
"We are already receiving international interest because this is something different in Dubai. Here, there are so few independent magazines, so some areas are not getting fully documented," he says. "So visitors usually tend to hit the tourist spots."
Despite the fact that the publishing industry is suffering a few hits, Purcell says the demand for independent magazines has enjoyed a consistent rise, largely due to a decrease in production costs.
"These types of magazines are becoming like vinyl records - sales of which have also been continuously increasing lately," he says. "Magazines are products which people like to collect, because they have content which we tend to want to come back to every now and then."
We Are Here Dubai is now available at bookstores and costs Dh45. Visit www.weareheremagazine.com for more information