In the past five years, Dubai's exponential growth has changed the face of the city completely. Sociologist and photographer Charlie Koolhaas started documenting this change in 2006, as a commissioned piece sponsored by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) for the "Dubai Next" exhibition.
"Dubai Next" was an exhibition for Germany's Vitra Design Museum, which opened at the same time as Art Basel that year.
Just five years later and Koolhaas' photographs form a kind of historical document, complemented by current photographs of the city to compare and contrast.
"Cities are built with completely different lifestyles. The fact that the whole of Dubai has changed in three years proves that it's a kind of unpredictability; the cities are being built with this mechanism for unpredictability," Koolhaas told Gulf News at The Pavilion where the photos are being displayed as "Dubai Then".
With 500 pictures in the collection, it was impossible to display the images flat on the wall; so the photos have been printed on fabric and hung on poles, similar to the way textiles are displayed. This gives the images the feel of a book.
"The idea of the book is that at any point you can enter this installation and you'll be in a different part of the city… literally the two places meet, literally, when you close them," she said.
The photographer took an inventory of the city, literally travelling around Dubai observing and taking photographs.
"I went from the public beach and right next to a wall are all these wealthy tourists and on the other side of the wall is a fishing village with only South-Asian fishermen and they're living in self-made huts.
"There are these two extremely divergent lifestyles, separated by a wall. And so I really just went through, simply tried to walk through those walls," she said, adding that the exhibition uses the geography of the city to show how these kind of places meet.
For Koolhaas, Dubai conceptualises a new form of multiculturalism.
People from all over the world live in their own cultural "bubbles".
"There is this idea that everyone lives in their own bubble and everyone is separated, but they're next to each other. Everyone maintains their own culture in those bubbles and they're able to maintain familiarity," she said.
In Germany, 2009, Koolhaas exhibited photographs from four cities: Lagos, Guangzhou, London and Dubai.
She has lived in all of the cities except Lagos, although she has spent a lot of time there visiting friends.
"I definitely think there's a big difference, you take different photographs after being somewhere a year than when you first get there… When you've been somewhere a long time, you stop taking photos of things that are obviously nice or interesting because you get used to it," she said.
"I hope there's a kind of love, my love for these places is in it and the sense of intimacy," she said.
"Dubai Then" will be displayed at The Pavilion Downtown Burj Khalifa until August.
From / Gulf News