x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Bruno Barbey at Empty Quarter Gallery

Courtyard of the Zaouia of Moulay Idriss, Fez, Morocco,1983 (Courtesy: Bruno Barbey and The Empty Quarter)

Fez. 1993. Moulay Idriss. The courtyard of the Zaouiya
Courtyard of the Zaouia of Moulay Idriss, Fez, Morocco,1983 (Courtesy: Bruno Barbey and The Empty Quarter) Fez. 1993. Moulay Idriss. The courtyard of the Zaouiya

Bruno Barbey is a French photographer who was born in Morocco and travels the world taking historical images. An extremely talented Magnum photographer, Barbey has published several books with stories from as far flung as Brazil, Oman and China but he always returns to his first love, Morocco.

This month in Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai International Financial Centre, he is displaying a selection of images taken from 1972-2002.

Always with his camera slung over his shoulder, Barbey is clearly extremely passionate about his work and even during the interview he stopped to shoot a few frames along the tunnel made by shadow and light in DIFC.

Here we catch up with him for a Q&A session:

Q: What do you look for when you take an image?

A: I am mostly interested in humans, people, but I like also to describe the surroundings with my images. I capture traditional architecture in Morocco, like in Marrakesh, the red city and in Fez, which in my opinion is the most beautiful Islamic city in the world, where there are very narrow streets where you can only go by foot.

Q: Do you spend a long time waiting for the perfect image?

A: Nothing is set up obviously and a lot of it is pure luck. Mostly I shoot very quickly, sometimes I see one shadow and then shoot a lot of pictures of people passing by and when I edit, I pick up the good shots. It depends on the place.

Q: What are you trying to show?

A: Most of my work is about documenting situations or cultural and historical events, which are going to disappear. Things are changing very quickly in this world. I did a book on Shanghai in the 1970s and when I went back 10 years later it was like Manhattan. Now I am interested in Oman, because I am finding things there that are fading away.

Q: Do you search out for tradition in the places you visit?

A: Well, yes, but I am also fascinated by Dubai and the architecture and the modern life. When I first came to Dubai however, you could go and visit Sheikh Rashid with no appointment and I also came to Abu Dhabi in 1971 and witnessed the union. I took many photographs of that, including of Sheikh Zayed and the official inauguration, which were used in The National’s history project for National Day in 2010.

Q: You have also taken many images from the war zones including a famous one in Kuwait of the American marines in a Humvee driving away from burning oil fields. Can you tell me about that?

A: Well, yes, I sometimes do photojournalism and the interesting thing about this image is that when this picture was published it was in Time magazine and then in Life magazine, some women sent me letters saying that they recognised their husband or their fiancés so I am still in touch with all those guys. Now my wife is going to make a movie about them and what they are doing 25 years on.

* Morocco: A Scorching Beauty runs at Empty Quarter until April 17th. For more information visit: www.theemptyquarter.com