x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Appetite for construction

q&a Hazem Mahdi, a Sharjah-born Egyptian photographer, spent 15 weeks on the Garhoud Bridge documenting its development.

Hazem Mahdi, young photographer studying at AUD who is doing a photo essay on civil engineering on the subject of the Garhoud bridge construction site in Dubai.
Hazem Mahdi, young photographer studying at AUD who is doing a photo essay on civil engineering on the subject of the Garhoud bridge construction site in Dubai.

Hazem Mahdi, a Sharjah-born Egyptian photographer studying at American University of Dubai, spent 15 weeks on the Garhoud Bridge construction site photographing its development. On Nov 6 he will exhibit his photographs at Pecha Kucha Night - a monthly salon, held in Dubai, where creative minds show their work in colourful PowerPoint presentations.

The countless mistakes I make seem to work most of the time. Also the more time I spend looking at a photograph, the more there appears to be something new that I haven't seen before. My subconscious takes over when I'm shooting and teaches me even more about myself. It also is by far the greatest medium to express myself and my experiences.

There is always a sense of loss and gain in my photographs, in both good and bad ways. In the Garhoud Bridge project I discuss the rise of one bridge and the fall of another. It's easy to get influenced in this fast-developing city, there is always a new "theme" to explore around every corner.

The first photograph that comes to mind is Henri Cartier Bresson's picture of a man jumping in a body of water. There is something about that photograph that shows pure creativity and captures a moment. After it passes, everything in the photograph will have changed. I also love a photograph of a 99-cent store by Andreas Gursky. It is filled with overwhelming colour.

As a boy, I always wanted to be an engineer. Living among this city's ever-rising skyscrapers, I wanted to learn about the process from start to finish. Once I got the chance to photograph this bridge, the colours and machines blew my mind.

Anything that isn't in the spotlight yet, areas such as Satwa, Bastakiya, and a couple of places in Jumeirah. Basically, all the places that in a couple of years might not exist any more as a result of the rapid expansion of this city.

It gives me the freedom to speak about the process of how I got to take these pictures. Usually people look at photographs and don't consider how they were taken or why. I hope to show my audience that the creative process is as important as the final shots that bring this project together.

I think that it's what everyone needs here in Dubai, something new and different that we don't seem to get enough of. There is so much talent and creativity here to be promoted and Pecha Kucha offers a great opportunity to bridge gaps between the audience and the presenters.

I started seeing things so differently when I got to the end of this project. I got into a zone that I never thought I could reach while on the bridge. I was so fully immersed in my work that I was living, eating and breathing it. It was a wonderful experience that I would like people to explore in one way or another. Pecha Kucha is held on Nov 6, at 8.00pm, at The American University in Dubai, Building A. Guests must bring a printout of the event announcement available at www.pecha-kucha.org/cities/dubai.