The Photographer Documenting Dubai’s Hidden Suburbs

An honest look into the city’s lesser-seen neighbourhood

bySarah Ben Romdane

It’s no secret that Dubai is usually associated with plush interiors, sci-fi skyscrapers and decadent luxury hotels. But a number of emerging photographers are on a mission to dispel and challenge preconceptions by putting a spotlight on the little-seen facets of the city. 22-year-old British-Iranian photographer Aria Shahrokhshahi is one of them.

Curious to know what it was like to really live in Dubai, he travelled there in 2016 to explore the city’s multiple realities. The result is an honest and raw documentation of Dubai’s forgotten suburbs.

We caught up with him to find out how this project came about and why he finds photography so powerful.

Why is photography your medium of choice?

I think for me, photography has a very special way of communication. It’s more accessible than video, so for me, as someone wanting to communicate and tell stories, it makes the most sense. The camera is a passport; it sounds contrived and overly dramatic but I can’t even count the number of situations I wouldn’t have been able to be in if it wasn’t for the camera. Just by having a camera you can have these little windows into other people’s lives.

How did you feel when you got to Dubai and discovered its undocumented suburbs?

Well, I had never been before this trip, but I thought “there has to be people other than multimillionaires, right?” So that’s’ what I did, I went looking and it was a very eye opening experience. There is a huge population of people in Dubai that are not what people would imagine; just working people, normal families and those are the stories I’m interested in.

What was your most memorable moment during the trip?

When I was wondering around I came across a lovely Sudanese gentleman who let me take his picture. He invited me into his home and we drank tea and spoke about his life there and love for football. There was a warm aura about him.

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