Time Out speaks to photographer and artist Alastair Newton Brown about his exhibition at the jamjar gallery.
Can you tell us how tilt-shift photography works? How does it make everything look so tiny?
Tilt-shift photography takes its name from the use of a ‘tilt’ and ‘shift’ lens. It refers to the way in which the lens physically tilts and shifts to distort the image’s depth of field and focus point. The tilt part of the lens controls the plane of focus, the shift part adjusts the depth and position of the subject in the image without the photographer having to move the camera. The effect can also be achieved in post-production using Photoshop. There are three rules to keep in mind with tilt-shift photography: height, distance and angle. The key is to harmonise all three so the photographer can create an image that will trick the viewer into thinking they’re actually looking at a model or toys.
What gave you the idea to do this exhibition?
Basically, just looking out of windows. I’ve played around with tilt-shift photography for a while now and I thought the technique would lend itself to the capturing of construction in Dubai. I really wanted to put a different spin on this famous city by taking the gaze away from the amazing completed buildings and refocusing it on the incomplete ones. After all, we’re in the world’s playground. Taking photos of the toys below seemed like a logical thing for me to do.
Why is the exhibition called ‘The Dubai Portfolio Tilt’?
It’s referring to industry jargon for investment bankers and fund managers. They will often use the phrase ‘portfolio tilt’ to describe the way in which they invest funds. The tilt of funds can be towards one of three things: shares, property or money in the bank. In Dubai, the tilt is pretty obviously directed toward property development, and we all know what has happened with that industry over the past three years.
What do you think of Dubai?
I think that certain aspects of Dubai are beautiful. There is a very naïve and childlike feeling to this city, the people in it and the way in which it is built. What I find so interesting is the fact that you can walk 50 metres and move from the tip of a construction site to a five-star luxury setting. Many people hate all the construction and think it’s ugly, but I find it entertaining. When I look out the window at the construction sites I think about who those people are and what they’re making. And also who are the investors that are paying for this construction, what they do, where they’re from. Do they know their workers? Do they worry about money?
The Dubai Portfolio Tilt continues at thejamjar until November 27.
‘For me, this picture encapsulates the meaning behind the exhibition. It was taken at long range with a 400mm lens. I often look at it and wonder what it would be like to work at that building site. While this picture looks like a reconstruction, I can assure you it’s real.’
Al Barsha Mosque
‘I took this picture from a friend’s roof. The construction late at night, plus the minarets shining in the background, is Dubai. Take what you will from the juxtaposition.’
‘This photo is fairly self explanatory. It’s such a grim scene. An isolated man and his mess. One could say Dubai is also an isolated man with a big economic mess to clean up.’
JLT Building Blocks
‘For some reason this image reminds me of my childhood. It’s as though you could reach into the picture, pick up the pieces and make something with them. I didn’t choose this photo originally because of its emptiness, but it grew to be one of my favourites.’
JLT Mish Mash
‘This is a perfect example of the beauty I believe exists in the construction sites around Dubai. I’d like the think the little man in the centre of the picture is satisfied with the job he has just completed, although I tend to think he’s probably wondering what on earth to do next.’
‘I love this picture because of the little red truck. This is the most toy-like image for me. It looks as though the truck has been placed into the ‘model’ in the wrong place, at the wrong angle.’
‘This picture was taken from the Downtown Burj residences. The most striking thing is the lilac. I think people often don’t notice the colours of construction.’