With the weather cooling down (finally), we've reintroduced our popular Photo Walks, which are arguably the best way to discover the UAE (yes, my bias is showing). Perhaps a bit of a misnomer, GPP's Photo Walks are more than a simple photography excursion. Our guides are all individuals that call the UAE home⏤and we relish showing off our 'hoods.
Alongside a carefully planned route replete with cultural insights and historical context, you'll receive hands-on technical photography training. Since we're in dynamic street situations, you'll learn how to apply the theory you've acquired in Photography Level 1 & 2 to less-than-ideal situations. For example, on the Karama: People & Places walk, students learn to capture emotive images with almost no light available.
But more poignant than the hands-on photographic education these walks provide, is the opportunity for people to engage with the people that make up the UAE. Raz Hansrod, who leads some of our Photo Walks, conducted interviews with integral characters on Karama: People & Places.
After introducing the members of the group to each other, we set off from Ravi’s Restaurant into the heart of Karama. With the sun below the newer, tall skyscapers that line Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Street, we begin with short introductions about Karama’s history. Then, members of the group take turns to pose and shoot portraits. We feel it important that if people are visiting a neighbourhood and taking environmental portraits of the locals, they themselves should be familiar with the unusual experience of having a ‘stranger’ take their portrait.
As we walk further into Karama and away from the busy highway behind, a pleasant smell becomes noticeable. Students often guess the source of this fragrance before we enter the first establishment on our route: Jasmine Flower Experts Trading.
Jasmine Flower Experts Trading has been in the UAE for six-and-a-half-years, creating beautiful handmade garlands using fresh flowers, imported every second day. The business actually began in Tamil Nadu 25 years ago, and Gowrisankar Vaithiyanathan has been with them since their opening day in Karama.
Gowrisankar kindly modelled for us and explained the Hindu practice of puja to the group, one of the ceremonies that customers purchase flower arrangements for. Puja, a central rite in Hinduism, is the offering of light, water, food or flowers to a deity. It turns out, we later learned, that Jasmine Experts actually create some of the garlands used at the Shiva Mandir in Bur Dubai, a place we visit in our Naif by Night photo walk.
As well as Hindu customers, Jasmine Experts has some Arabic clientele⏤roughly 15% according to Gowrisankar. He says that Arabs order handmade bracelets and necklaces for use in weddings.
I was curious about Gowrisankar's age, as he seemed significantly younger than his colleagues.
“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking? What is your age?”
“Thirty! You seem so young!”
“Ya I’m thirty… now it’s the time to get married.”
“Ah, that’s why you look so young. Look at what happens when you get married”, I said, pointing to Gowrisankar’s colleague, “Your hair will go grey!”
Gowrisankar’s third colleague then chimes in amongst the laughter: “But my hair is black, and I am married for many years.”
“Yeah, but I think you dye your hair that colour!”
“No! It’s original! 100%”
Often before leaving the store, we would then attempt to purchase some jasmine bracelets or necklaces, as they make lovely additions to the environmental portraits we’d be taking. I say attempt, because the gentlemen would often insist that we take them as a “compliment”.
If you’d like to purchase beautiful hand-made flower arrangements for any occasion, or would simply like to up your portrait photography, be sure to visit Gowrisankar and the gentlemen at Jasmine Flower Experts.