Look: Rare photos capturing UAE's historic moments on display in Abu Dhabi

This is the first time that significant images captured in the early 1800s until 2020 have been put on display in the Middle East


Ashwani Kumar

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram


Photos of the exhibition taken by Ashwani Kumar
Photos of the exhibition taken by Ashwani Kumar

Published: Wed 21 Dec 2022, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 21 Dec 2022, 2:30 PM

From the image of the late Sheikh Zayed's Rolls-Royce on the streets of Abu Dhabi (see above) to the earliest surviving photograph taken by French inventor Nicephore Niepcet —a new exhibition in Abu Dhabi takes visitors on a journey back in time and to the origins of photography.

Do you know that camera is derived from the Arabic word Al Qumra (dark room)? All these cool trivia and iconic historical photographs are featured at The Shot, which opened at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi.

This is the first time that significant images captured in the early 1800s till 2020 have been put on display in the Middle East. Held by the Photography Studio, visitors to the exhibition can learn about the first cameras ever known to mankind and how the first images were captured, processed, and printed.

The earliest surviving photo taken by the world's first photographer Nicephore Niepce
The earliest surviving photo taken by the world's first photographer Nicephore Niepce

The Shot displays a rare selection of images taken by internationally renowned photographers who documented inspiring moments over the years.

Some of the big names at the exhibition are Louis Stettner, Leopold Ernest Mayer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Robert Capa, Platt D. Babbitt, Samuel Heer, Robert Frank, among a dozen other luminaries whose works featured prominent artistic and literary figures, landmarks and key moments of the past dating back to 1840s.


What will intrigue a visitor even more was how photographers captured an occasion with such depth and detail, despite the simplicity of their cameras and photographic equipment at the time.

Once you are inside the exhibition, one of the first objects to catch your attention will be the Escopette, invented by Albert Darier from Geneva, in 1888, when the Kodak camera was introduced.

The camera was made of wood with a carved wooden handle giving it the shape of a pistol and brass support legs to serve as a tripod and brass hardware to mechanise the film advancement. It was one of the first cameras to use George Eastman’s flexible film designed for the original Kodak.

The exhibition also highlights how modern-day techniques can enhance such photos with the artistic use of light and shadow – especially for black and white photos.

History enthusiasts are in for a treat as the exhibition offers an outstanding collection of original photo prints of historical figures.

There is Gabriel De Rumine's 1859 photo of the Mosque of Omar in the Old City of Jerusalem, Roger Fenton's photograph of a camp in Ukraine during the Crimean war (1856), Rene Burri's portrait of Ernesto Che Guevara (1963) and others.

Revisiting the past of Abu Dhabi

Zaki Nusseibeh, Cultural Adviser to the UAE President, has displayed a range of photographs from his personal collection from 1970.

These include a street view with a Rolls-Royce belonging to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and landmarks like Qasr Al Hosn, the Clock Tower on Corniche Street, Khalidiya Palace Hotel, KFC and Wimpy restaurants near Al Bateen Airport, undated souq market in Abu Dhabi. There was also a studio portrait of a young Nusseibeh with a camera, among others.

The collection gives visitors of how far the Capital has come — from having huge swathes of desert land to building a thriving world-class city.

There is also an impressive collection of works by Ammar Al Attar, Emirati photographer, and artist titled ‘Reverse Moments’.

Visitors can participate in interactive workshops where they can experience the earliest form of photo-capturing. Learn how to use a dark room known as Al Qumra, the origins of which can be traced back to the work of Arab scientist Ibn Al Haytham.

Photography enthusiasts will also be able to capture photos in a traditional studio and learn how to process and print them based on the style of each time period.

Photo from the collection of Zaki Nusseibeh
Photo from the collection of Zaki Nusseibeh

Organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, The Shot is held in cooperation with Auer photo Foundation and Time and Tempo, Geneva, Switzerland. Michel and Michele Auer, the founders of the Auer Photo Foundation, were present on the opening day of the exhibition.

The exhibition runs until April 24, 2023, and entry ticket costs Dh30.


More news from UAE