The Emirate Strikes Back

The Emirate Strikes Back

Star Wars comes to Dubai in the latest photography exhibition from Frenchman Cedric Delsaux

By Adam Zacharias

Published: Wed 16 Dec 2009, 8:08 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:21 PM

“I WANTED TO find a city which could give the impression that we’re in the future,” says photographer Cedric Delsaux of his latest Star Wars-themed collection. “Dubai is like that – it’s a very strange place.”

The Parisian native meshes fiction and reality in his work, transplanting characters from George Lucas’ epic franchise into everyday landscapes using figurines and techno-wizardry.

The Dubai Invasion – the third and final instalment of his Dark Lens trilogy – includes battle droids marching through the DIFC, the Millennium Falcon zipping past the Burj Tower and C3P0 stood in a local burnt-down theatre.

In February, Cedric spent two weeks scouring the emirate for landscape shots of both chic and derelict areas.

“I don’t like working with clichés, so I didn’t want to give the same clichés of Dubai – tourism, big buildings and so on,” says the visiting photographer, whose exhibition is being held at the Empty Quarter art gallery until December 31.

“For me, a city has clean and dirty parts and I wanted to work with both of those. The genius of the Star Wars saga is that it portrays science-fiction the same way: it isn’t entirely clean and polished.”

Cedric concedes he “wasn’t really” a Star Wars fiend growing up, despite first watching Return of the Jedi as a nine-year-old boy, and still doesn’t count himself a devoted follower.

“Of course, like every kid I thought I was Hans Solo when I was playing with my friends,” he says. “But I’m not a huge fan; I don’t know the whole story and I haven’t seen the movies 20 times.”

Instead, the 35-year-old is more interested in challenging perceptions and blurring the line between fact and fantasy.

“We can only view reality through fiction,” claims Cedric. “That’s why in all my work I try to add fictional elements to real things. Suddenly it’s something new: not real, not false. I call that the ‘In Between theory’.”

After studying cinematography and journalism, Cedric sold books and worked in an advertising agency before becoming a full-time photographer in 2003.

His first Dark Lens collection, shot around the suburbs of Paris, snowballed from a small personal project to winning the prestigious Kodak prize for landscapes and architecture in 2005. He followed this up with a second collection shot around the northern French city of Lille.

However, this initial success brought with it a worrying problem: given his minor initial ambitions, Cedric hadn’t sought permission to use the Star Wars characters in his work.

He pulls a terrified face. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t have any rights’! I was quite afraid and I didn’t want to sell any prints or make money, because I didn’t know whether LucasFilm had strong lawyers.”

Several months after receiving the award, Cedric received a call from the production company in California. Fortunately, the news was positive.

“They said they loved my work and wanted to interview me for the official magazine. Steve Sansweet, the number two or three of LucasFilm, really liked my job and wrote to me. I was very happy about that.”

More importantly, Cedric struck a deal to attain the necessary licensing rights and is currently working on a photography book with the corporation’s blessing.

As for the inner meaning behind his work, he is happy for that to rest in the eye of the beholder.

“You never exactly know,” says Cedric. “Is it a joke? Is it serious? I know, but you can form your own judgement.”

The Empty Quarter art gallery, open until 10pm seven days a week, is situated in Gate Village 2 of the Dubai International Financial Centre. Call 04 323 1210 for more info.

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