“Arabian Transfer” is a photographic series highlighting the transitory condition
of six cities in the Arabian Peninsula – Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait City, Manama,
Riyadh – representing them as places of passage for cultures and people.
“Arabia” is historically a mythical place of the Western imagery, of exchange with the
East, but in recent decades cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha have appeared as new
worlds, new global epicentres made possible by a condition of hyper-mobility of people,
cultural models, images, finances, goods, transferred from one place to another.
These cities are mostly populated (as well as physically built) by expats from
around the world, and today represent a living laboratory in which the local identity
aspirations are measured against Western models and the traditions and cultures
of origin of the inhabitants. In the title, the word “Transfer” refers to a place where
travelers can spend some time, but can’t be a final destination, a condition that
happens to the large majority of people living in those countries.
These photographs were taken between 2010 and 2017 in the margin of other researches
on spectacular architecture in the Gulf. In this series I wanted to avoid the sublime
and grotesque character that photography tends to acquire in representing the most
spectacular aspects of these landscapes; but I also sought to give substance to the
abstract imagery of the new skylines – which remain in the background as the New York
by Dos Passos to which the title refers.
In these images I have favored a more intimate and direct relationship with the cities
and their inhabitants, which took place mainly by walking and spending a lot of time
on the streets and in urban areas, without hiding the difficulty of the metropolitan
condition. Through everyday habits, gestures and faces, I tried to bring out a sense
of presence, showing how these cities are actual places where people live, and where,
in the extreme and paradoxical form that characterizes them, it is possible to
recognize the global contemporary condition to which we ourselves participate.
For “Arabian Transfer” I am indebted to numerous people and institutions.
Special thanks are due to Davide Ponzini, Harvey Molotch – curators and organizers
of the intiative Learning From Gulf Cities (NYU, NYUAD, Politecnico di Milano),
the Akkasah Center for Photography of New York University in Abu Dhabi and
the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies of Riyadh.
This series was born from a fertile exchange of ideas with Laura Gasparini,
and exhibited for the first time at the 2019 edition of the Festival di Fotografia
Europea, Reggio Emilia, Italy.