Series of photographs documenting the impacts of continual human manipulation of the UAE's natural landscapes
Photo essay | | 1 March 2020
Photographer Richard Allenby-Pratt talks about The Abandoned series – part of a larger body of work documenting the impacts of continual human manipulation of the UAE’s natural landscapes. Inspired by Dubai’s construction sites that lay dormant in the wake of the 2009-2010 recession, the artist imagines nature itself reclaiming these forgotten spaces, calling for a greater awareness of the fragility of our environmental and economic systems.
“In the Abandoned series, I was originally interested in the construction sites around Dubai that appeared to have halted work during the financial crisis around 2009/2010. At that time it seemed possible that the period of exponential development during the 2000s may have drawn to a permanent end. The animals were part of this speculation; nature may reclaim what has been taken from it.
In my home country abandoned places tend to be hidden by their environment much more quickly than in arid lands. Plants and wildlife thrive in many neglected urban places. In the UAE, the scars we inflict on the landscape appear to endure for longer and are only likely to be disguised eventually by abiotic processes such as sand drift. I have a stronger instinctive allegiance with natural places than anthropomorphic ones, so, for me, there is less joy in the UAE’s abandoned places, more poignancy. It seems to me that, when a decision is made to alter a natural environment in arid landscapes it should be taken with even greater care and yet quite the reverse seems to be the case. Perhaps because of the paucity of life in these places it is felt they matter less.
While I lived in the UAE I missed the green landscapes of the UK, but, having finally returned there, I find that I now equally miss the wild landscapes of the UAE. Living in the English countryside feels, by comparison, like living in a manicured garden; one can appreciate the beauty but must only walk on the denoted paths. By comparison, I feel more free, and somehow exhilarated, in the desert and mountains. The opportunities for solitude are greater.”