Olivia Arthur photographs Dubai’s obsession with wealth

Reading Time: 3 minutes

To do so, Arthur frames the narrative of the photobook around the story of a ship which sank in 1961 just off the port of Dubai. The MV Dara was carrying passengers between India, Pakistan and the Gulf. An estimated 238 people died.

“I was reading about a family who lost their son in the wreck,” she says. “They spent years looking for him – almost 60 years later, they continue to do so. It got me thinking about how a survivor of this wreck might experience contemporary Dubai. I decided I would shoot the photobook from this specific viewpoint.”

Arthur conjures a sense of revisiting the past, and the place of the past in the present, by printing on transparent paper. Each picture is framed, therefore, is recontextualised and nuanced by the image that lies behind it.

Short extracts from interviews Arthur conducted also appear throughout the book, evoking a sense of the half-grasped conversations one might experience when moving through a city.

“I didn’t want to just take photographs of contemporary Dubai,” she says. “I wanted to take people on an immersive journey into a place.

“I wanted people to be able to see the pictures and read the text together, to create something that is a little bit muddled in an effort to evoke a sense of the whole picture.”

U.A.E. Dubai. Billboard advert for a water park. 2013
U.A.E. Dubai. Billboard advert for a water park. 2013