We caught up with some of the UAE’s most prolific Instagrammers to talk picture-taking. Words Caroline Fernandez.
Duck-lip selfies and photos of your cat are not the only thing Instagram is good for. As part of Dubai Art Season (which runs until April 15 and incorporates SIKKA Art Fair, Design Days Dubai, and Art Dubai) Dubai Culture, the government entity spearheading the season recently launched the Capture Creativity competition on Instagram, encouraging the public to contribute photos of art events to the #mydubai hashtag, which has been trending since Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, introduced it in January.
The hashtag, which has been created as a tool to build ‘the world’s first autobiography of a city’, has helped show off work by some of the city’s best amateur photographers (though they’re careful not to call themselves that) with their interesting, strikingly composed visual perspectives on UAE life.
Using their smartphone cameras and in some cases downloading photo-editing apps, these five Emirates-based Instagrammers in particular are certainly worth following online. There’s also still time to get involved with the Capture Creativity contest, with three winners chosen every week. To take part, follow Dubai Culture and MyDubai on Instagram, and use the hashtags #mydubai, #dxbartseason14 and #samsungnxart in your posts.
With the city as her subject, Hollier is a South African Iphoneographer who documents the narrow spaces between buildings and their heights by shooting upwards and from different angles. ‘A good photo on Instagram in my opinion is eye-catching, tells a story, or presents a new or interesting perspective.’
She first started using the app in late 2011 and now has more than 1,000 photos on her channel. ‘Many of my architectural shots are taken when I am out walking. For the art pieces I create on my iPhone, I am always watching for what I feel could lend itself to a special image.’ If you like her shots, Hollier’s photographs are for sale via her website.
Leif Magne Gramstad
Gramstad says: ‘IG [Instagram] photos should be well thought out, well-edited and have a meaningful caption. “Only post good photos,” I tell myself. Personally, I don’t care too much for selfies, food, pets and clothes. I try to have scenery with depth – and I love to add a touch of humour.’ Norwegian expat Gramstad is an active part of the Instagram community, building an impressive following in less than two years. Although he shoots and edits his own photos, he also spends time collaborating with other users around the world. ‘I learn a lot from looking at how others take pictures and edit them. There’s a tonne of talent out there!’
Herrera’s images capture those moments of alone time where the anonymous subject may not be aware they are actually being watched up close. The engineer has been on Instagram since 2012, spending a lot of his free time focusing on random people and taking shots of Dubai Metro. He has a few techniques for reaching out to his large international audience. ‘Think square, shoot square, and pay attention to everything inside the frame. Aside from the photo, friendliness counts. After all, it’s a social platform. Also try to think of the best caption that will go with the photo. Most importantly, never forget the location tags and hashtags.’
After more than two years on Instagram, Dubai-based Jabbour sees a lot of love on his channel from those who admire Dubai’s skyline and futuristic roadways, with settings varying between foggy mornings and moonlit nights. He uses trial and error to improve his skills and looks at the process as a more technical one.
‘I try as much as possible to have it on a scale of 1:1 because of Instagram’s small interface, and other ingredients fall under the theme of the picture. If the picture is black and white, then good scenery with high contrast would do the job. But if the theme is landscape, for example, then a wide-angle richly coloured shot would grab the eye of the viewer.’
Abdulla Al Wahedi
‘It takes effort. It’s not just taking a picture and posting it.’ For Al Wahedi, a UAE national in Dubai, it’s all about educating others on the country’s history and landscape. His captions incorporate information that put into context the traditional forts and buildings he shoots, as well as the local landscape and beautifully framed shots inside local homes. ‘I don’t want to just capture the thing as it is – I want to make it beautiful. So I look for shadows, windows, effects and weather conditions that will make the picture appealing to people and make them stop... and read a little bit about that building or that location.’