They say that every city has its soul. And that every soul has its human. Souls that make that particular city. Big Apple, City of Angels, Eternal City, City of Love. And what about Doha? What kind of city is that?
Ralph Hattersley: “We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us”
I attract them with my camera, that magical, black box from the times of Niépce and Daguerre. I wanted to get to know myself, through those smiles, experiences, destinies, sufferings. Like a mirror. To collect them all deep inside myself. To release them. And then I understood that I was truly happy. Because happiness is when the citizens of this world are everywhere around you. When energies arouse, when dreams come true, when they accept you as you are. Common, but still unusual. Aren’t we all unique?
I got to know the culture of the Middle East a few years back, when I used to travel to the UAE. It wasn’t hard for me to get used to living in Doha. I got here at the end of August last year, for work. I do graphic design and multimedia.
Doha is small, still unfinished. It misses shades and palm trees we can see in Abu Dhabi, metro is in the process of making (Dubai has had it for long now), but in essence it’s a place where everyone can find his peace and inner satisfaction. West Bay, part of the city where skyscrapers are still sprouting and growing with signatures of true magicians of modern architecture. They glitter in all possible colours, and they spend a lot of energy. Even when there’s nobody inside. It’s a place of business, commercial world. Where ties flaunt in the wind, and heels sparkle in the sunshine. Where taxi drivers invade your personal space. But I don’t let them. Corniche, the long promenade along the seashore starting at the Sheraton hotel and going up to the MIA (Museum of Islamic Art), is always full of smiling walkers, some joggers and lawns where people enjoy their weekends. And drink tea. SouqWaqif, the heart of the city, where the soul is infused with the beautiful emotion of tradition. Calmness. Tourists, street vendors, traders. National restaurants. Aromas coming from everywhere. These three parts of the city mean a lot to me. My favourites. That’s why I mentioned them. Every time they flood me with happiness. And sometimes a few tears.
Faces of Doha
Many people run after money, career, luxury life, glitter. Some after women. And me, I run after faces. I’ve always loved photography, but I never truly embraced it. Maybe because I always wanted to be a director, so photography has always been just a part of my never ending dream about the film. Never ending? Or better to say my little disappointment, which still has a chance to become a big, white swan. The one that used to be an ugly, little duckling.
My wish was to uncover the city and its life through the common people. Without stealing their souls. Just showing them to the world. Giving it a present. Do you see the naked city? Like on the palm of your hand. The city that embraces you with its big heart. The city that doesn’t forget those who live in it. Don’t be blind, Oedipus!
At the beginning, I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures, so I was doing it mostly using my mobile. Secretly. But as the time was passing, my confidence was growing, so I started carrying the camera around. Approaching people, talking with the labourers, having chats with passers-by. Maybe even charming someone, why not? Annie Leibovitz once said: “A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”
After all, I can say that people here like being photographed. What you heard before is not true. They actually love it. Because, someone pays you attention. Starts loving you truly. Your face. It’s special. He shows it to the world. With only one “click”. Now you can guess, Doha is a world by itself. In miniature. A world of different cultures and customs. Multicultural universe that goes beyond barriers. With stardust. A world that wipes out prejudices. Destroys blockades. Those that can never be eternal.
The eyes of mine, they are my 35mm lenses. Of beauty, tradition and soul. Unstained. The dream that’s actually the reality. That breathes. Relentlessly. Inhale. Exhale.
Futuristic Al Bidda
Doha is the city of future. Very soon, finished vision of a man in love. Who is sitting in some noble tower and throwing the dices of people’s happiness. Trying to find balance. And satisfy everyone. Who’s playing with us. Isn’t the life just a game? The city of sport, culture. Tango and salsa. The FIFA World Cup. Oh yes, it will happen, my dear reader. Don’t get distracted! Pack your suitcases, buy the tickets and cheer, caped in your country’s flag. Learn to sing the anthem, if you haven’t already. Families who inhale the fragrance of the grass in the park near the Sheraton hotel. Where the hum of the sea sounds differently. There’s no Little Mermaid there. Where people drive like they have nine lives, where turn signals don’t exist in the reality. Where everyone has a driving license. Where you can find the best Turkish ice cream. Where you can wear the most beautiful Arabic scarves. Where you can see the women who take your breath away. Me, I almost died.
Doha – the city of the soul. Beauty. The one that’s coming from the inside. A moment of calmness. The calmness of the desert. That can last forever. Paulo Coelho once said: “The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes.” Aren’t the stars shining the brightest there? Yes, they are, my traveller! Something you will always carry with you once you’re back to Europe, that cradle of civilisation. Oh, that shine! Of the pearls… And again, it brings the smile back to your face. Like the faces of my soul.
Dedicated to my daughter and queen Teuta