Photography enthusiasts were promised a space in the capital to call their own; a hub to cultivate their passion for the medium, a gathering place to improve upon their skills, or even just a dedicated location to attend masterclasses and workshops with local, regional and international photographers. And last week, that promise was fulfilled.
A brand new space dedicated to everything related to photography is now open to the public, seven days a week, at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. Called the Photography Studio, it is a new arts centre, with a studio available for rent, a digital lab for processing photos and a large workspace with a make-up and dressing room for photo sessions. There will also be a vibrant annual programme of exhibitions, workshops, masterclasses and lectures to be held in dedicated classroom-like areas.
“We strive to nurture an artistic environment that invites and encourages talent at all levels to enjoy, learn and further their skills at our cultural centre,” says Alia Khalid Al Qassimi, head of Manarat Al Saadiyat, ahead of the opening. “Developing and enhancing the professional growth of artistic talent in Abu Dhabi and beyond is one of our mandates at Manarat Al Saadiyat, and the new Photography Studio will establish a dedicated space and will promote photography as a form of art.”
The hope is that the photography scene in Abu Dhabi will grow and develop, so not only to support existing shutterbugs, but to nurture and encourage new ones interested in delving into the art.
“It’s for all levels and all ages,” explains Faisal Al Dhahri, acting director for Public Relations and Communications at the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT). “It is meant to cater to professionals, but also for those who are just starting out in photography. This is the first of its kind in Abu Dhabi.”
Every Wednesday, from 6pm to 8pm, the studio will host meet-ups for enthusiasts who are free to attend. They will be given an opportunity to brainstorm ideas, exchange tips and techniques, share a photo of the week, ask about different equipment and gather information related to photography. “The point is that it will create a sense of community among photographers in Abu Dhabi,” Al Dhahri adds. “It’s a simple thing that people do on a daily basis and many might want to develop it further, so having workshops and seminars and an annual programme where local, regional and international photographers can come share their expertise with those interested is ideal,” he says.
The launch also included the opening of Emirati photographer Jassim Al Awadhi’s exhibition, The Presence of Absence, the first to be hosted at the studio, and which will run until November 8.
The celebrated Emirati photographer started his journey as a crime scene photojournalist, and continued to do so for 20 years before getting into contemporary and documentary photography.
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The top 30 of his clicks, spanning from his 35-year career, are currently on show. In this selection, Al Awadhi explains, he tried to explore “energy” that is present in what might first appear to be an empty space. “Energy can come from anything and it remains, even when the subject moves on,” he says. “I spent so much time in the desert looking for this energy, and that’s what I try to show in the photographs.” They were not taken for one specific series, he says, but are instead a culmination of years of taking photos of abandoned settlements in the desert, in an attempt to hint at the energy that once lived in those spaces.
Al Awadhi will also host a number of lectures and master classes at the space. The studio’s public programme is varied, and encompasses public talks, photography expeditions with the community, portfolio review sessions, exclusive one-on-one courses and community- driven photo exhibitions. The masterclasses led by professionals are for various levels, and will include studio lighting, videography, smartphone photography and editing. Tips will be given on a variety of styles, including black and white, cityscapes, still-life, fine art and food.
For the full schedule of events and classes at the Photography Studio, visit www.manaratalsaadiyat.ae