Talk by Nick Hannes at Gulf Photo Plus

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Nick Hannes, The Continuity of Man, 2014 (Photo: New York Times Lens, 2016)

I had the opportunity to attend a talk yesterday by the Belgian photographer, Nick Hannes, who gave an overview of his career to date as a photojournalist and more recently as a documentary photographer. Given my interest in the documentary photography genre I thought that this was a good opportunity to get some insights on this and further ideas for my project. Nick shared some of his recent work on the Mediterranean and also a few examples of his images from his new project that he is doing in Dubai.

The majority of his talk focused on his interesting project “The Continuity of Man” which took him four years to document over a course of 20 trips to several countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. His work across the locations was bound together using the themes of tourism, migration and coastal urbanisation which made me think of the recent presentation by our course co-ordinator who provided the example of a series of photographs linked back together by the London bus. I need to think about how my project will have a theme to provide cohesion to the overall work.

Nick spoke about his preference to shoot from slightly further away so that his photographs showed people within their environment and almost as if they were like puppets in a show. I’m not sure whether this is the style of documentary photography that I prefer or whether that would be closer to the human subject but it is perhaps something to explore further in the next few months and share my own perspective on later on in the course.

Nick discussed some of the practical aspects of shooting the project as well as the new project in Dubai the will be focusing on tourism and consumerism. He spoke about his preference to ask people for permission to photograph them, and also how he went about getting access to certain venues or locations which was interesting to hear. He also mentioned the importance of researching the topic in advance and the type of readings that he does to get to know more about the subject matter. This helps to provide some structure around the types of photographs that he will seek on his trips and to ensure that there is the correct context in his photographs.

He did mention that he is focusing on shooting indoors at the moment in Dubai as it is too hot and it made me slightly panic about what I am going to do for half the year here! Maybe some night photography on the less humid nights ? Perhaps there is room for a separate project there too – “Dubai nights”. Maybe a trip or two outside of the region with family over the summers?

At the end of the talk, a local asked Nick on whether he intended to publish his work on Dubai in the UAE and if so would he be censoring some of his images such as some of the nightclub scenes. I definitely need to get to the bottom of what is and what isn’t permitted in the UAE in terms of what type of photographs are acceptable and what type of work can be published.

I had to rush off after the talk but I have reached out to Nick by email today to try to connect with him whilst he is in Dubai. Lets see.

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