What is Women of the UAE and how did you get involved?
It’s my own project. I used to work in a heavily dominated fashion industry; I was under the influence of some big names in England for eight years. I’d been working with the some of the most externally beautiful people in the world, but I saw an ad for a children’s charity in Africa in [homeless charity mag] The Big Issue. I signed up and worked on the project, and from there I moved to Dubai and decided to set up this photography project.
What does it involve?
We will be photographing 500 women who contribute to the region; 100 of these will be published in a book, and 25 will be exhibited. The idea behind the project is to focus on the inner beauty of women. There are many women out there with a story to tell, from taxi drivers to entrepreneurs. Traditionally I’m a fashion and beauty photographer so will be using those skills, but this is about every woman, every nationality and every walk of life. I’ve heard some beautiful stories. I’m looking for the people that make up the UAE; it will be a visual time capsule showing what the people are like here.
Will the book be narrative, or purely visual?
There will be some text and quotes. Certain women will be highlighted in the book and some will have more space so they can tell a further story about themselves.
Why did you originally choose fashion photography?
Being female, you are almost naturally drawn to fashion. Being creative, you are naturally drawn to art. Fashion is another form of expression with clothes. It was a perfect fit for me – I’m a creative person and love people and fashion.
If you could shoot anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Dead: Audrey Hepburn. Alive: Gisele Bündchen. They are both beautiful.
Have you ever met any drama queens on a fashion shoot?
Not specifically – it’s more the whole persona of the industry. There’s an element of hierarchy and sometimes you think: it’s only fashion, it’s not rocket science, we’re not flying to the moon here. Nobody in particular has made an imprint on me, but you generally deal with people in fashion who think they’re a little bit better than everyone else, and actually they’re not.
Why is it so important to recognise women in Dubai and capture them visually?
Everybody has a story to tell and it doesn’t make you any less of a person because you’re not a high achiever. We need to be able to express our contribution and celebrate it. Just because we’re at a certain level it doesn’t mean we are any more or less important than anyone else. It’s beauty in different forms.
Finally, where do you want to be in five years?
I want to be globally recognised for my work with women.
Interview: Jade Bremner. For more information, see www.facebook.com/womenoftheUAE or www.charneymagri.com.