The art of Streetology?


Streetology is a way to visually extract and analyse the city. Because cities can be so abstract and distant and, if you look at them superficially, so similar, I try to discover the real uniqueness of each place I visit. I’ve always taken a lot of pictures, but I had no real method behind it. But in capturing repetition in the city through streetology, I started to discover and develop a new way of looking at things and a way of understanding the city visually and contextually.

I see things happening and capture them in their natural being - people connecting in a certain way, messages of people in the street, the kinds of brick used in an area, the color schemes of a district, the styles of window displays.... I have become super sensitive to all these components, and I try to obsessively collect them, to take them home, place them in their own order, digest it and look at it again from a different perspective. In this way I extract the city into many different parts. If you look at the loose pieces and don’t see their context, another contex becomes visible and I guess that is the magic and the art of streetology.

How did you apply these techniques in Dubai?


In Dubai I had to find out a way to streetologize the city without strolling around, because of the heat. Drive-by shooting worked really well - driving slowly with Ahmed in the car and taking pictures while the air conditioner was blowing in my face.

Because you drive a lot in Dubai, the differences between each scene is quite big, at least that is how I experienced it. You can go from being in a super hot road with sand tumbling over the asphalt to feeling the cold of the marble under your feet in the shopping malls directly.

[Charlie and I] quickly started speaking about Dubai and its “bubbles”: somehow the hotel with its lobbies, elevators, rooms, restaurants, people, nightlife... they all became cities in themselves. Each bubble shows similarities through its difference and difference through its similarities. I started to collect materials used in the hotels and I made pictures of the way the pillows were organized on the couches, and I would just sit and watch people walking by, situations happening.

Besides the hotel bubbles, there where many more. I started to recognize the kind of cars driving around the Dubai Marina and the cars in Al Coz. In my mind, a color map started to evolve - the hotels with the sharp blue swimming pools and sea, the offices with their mirrored glass, the glitter of Deira at night or the light pastel colors of the houses in the old parts of Dubai in contrast with the bright metal colors of the high rises near Sheikh Zayed Road...

What do you think these bubbles tell us about life in Dubai?

I think for an outsider who has never been to Dubai they tell a lot about the richness of the city’s different cultures that are visible in the details I have captured. For the people of Dubai I hope they will regognize a lot of daily details that they haven’t really noticed in this way before. Some of the sequences could be made anywhere, but then the newness of it makes it really Dubai. For example, the Ibn Battuta shopping mall with all its ancient details copied and made in modern plaster... That is bizarre, but also the result of all different efforts and cultures melting together.

Interview by Brendan McGetrick for Dubai Next.