'Sheikh Zayed told me to keep taking pictures'
Dubai - In line with the Year of Tolerance, the exhibition titled "Zayed and Rashid: Inspiring Visionaries", features 22 iconic photographs including two unpublished candid portraits of Sheikh Zayed
Fifty years after meeting the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the nation, renowned Indian photographer Ramesh Shukla has opened an exhibition featuring a unique selection of historical snapshots of the two iconic founding fathers - Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
In line with the Year of Tolerance, the exhibition titled "Zayed and Rashid: Inspiring Visionaries", features 22 iconic photographs including two unpublished candid portraits of Sheikh Zayed. It also includes a photograph of the country's rulers taken on December 2, 1971, which has since become a symbol of unity.
One picture, taken just three years after Ramesh arrived on a boat to Sharjah from India, captures the moment that sparked a special relationship between Shukla and the founding father.
"It was 1968. I handed him a portrait photograph I had taken of him and I asked for his autograph. He had seen me around taking photographs and knew I was capturing a part of history. He took a golden pen from his pocket, handed it to me and told me to keep taking pictures. That's why I'm still here in the UAE," he told Khaleej Times.
Forty-three years after unveiling his first ever photo exhibit at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry's head office in 1976, Shukla said it was time to return to the same location.
"The time felt right. I've been capturing important milestones in the UAE's history over the last 50 years and this collection is a nod to how tolerant the UAE has been to me. It accepted me into its country back in the 60's, even though there was a language and cultural barrier between us.
"We don't exhibit often because we want to keep the history unique. This is like a mini-museum of the UAE's rich past. These leaders were tolerant; they were visionary leaders who championed the values of tolerance and multiculturalism. Trade started on these very creek waters by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, so it makes sense to come back here," Shukla said.
With thousands of images to choose from, Neel Shukla, creative director of the exhibition and son of Ramesh said it was a "relentless task" to pick which pictures to showcase. But they eventually whittled it down to 80 before settling on the final 22.
"These images set the tone for the overall theme. The exhibition looks to encapsulate the humble beginnings of the UAE's trade relations and shows everything from Sheikh Zayed enjoying a cup of tea in the outdoors in 1968, to Emirati women trading vegetables in 1973."
Majid Saif Al Ghurair, chairman of the Dubai Chamber, opened the exhibition at a special ceremony which honoured Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid and thanked Shukla for his great contribution. The exhibition will be on display for two weeks as part of the Year of Tolerance celebrations.