Discovering the lives of those living and working in Doha, Qatar’s capital, Achille Abboud uncovers the social inequalities that define a neighborhood. With much media attention given to Qatar with the lead up to this year’s World Cup, the country has repeatedly been overshadowed by its inequalities.
“Social inequality is a big issue in Qatar, but it seems that everyone accepts the facts and plays by the rules.” Reminded of the importance of creating an earnest living and the values of friendship in a community consumed by social inequality, Achille Abboud sets out to provide a space and give voice to those affected.
Take a look into the lives and stories of the people our photojournalist met during his time in Qatar.
What defines your work as a photographer?
As a photographer, I wish to document what my eyes see. I often capture a moment in my mind. I constantly observe my surrounding, sense the natural light, the way it falls on people, objects or the way the light fills a space. I don’t usually carry a camera on me all the time. When I take photos, I like to actively take my time and go on the hunt. There are times I come back home with not a single picture taken in my camera. I see myself as a documentary photographer.
You write “In a world moving so fast, it is essential to keep learning.” – what does this mean to you as a creative?
We live in a world where we need to be generalists on the one hand and specialists on the other. I have been doing TV for almost 30 years now. I cannot imagine doing this one thing for so long. In my career I have learned to be a cameraman, I shoot and edit films and reports, I did visual effects for cinema films and more. Technologies develop so fast, that every 6 months a new essential product for our work would come out, a new software update and so on. If I would stop learning how could I maintain my skills? Skills are not only learning new software or hardware, it also means constant improvement of what I do, because I am the toughest critic to my own self. I always analyze how my work could have been better, what perspective could have had a better advantage, how can I find a new style that no one saw and found before? Once I find what I have been looking for, the next challenge comes. These quests will never end.
Can you tell us about your recent series exploring Doha/Qatar?
First thing I noticed when I was in Doha was the inequality of living conditions. There are on the one side the Qataries and a few rich others, and on the other side the workers. I was in Qatar for only less than a week, so I cannot tell you about the whole country. The climate was hot and humid, and the city is built for cars only, not so much for pedestrians. I did try to take a walk at the promenade by the sea, but I regretted my decision after a few minutes, because I’ve never sweated so much in my whole life!
The only Qataris I met in Doha were officials. The ones I photographed were all non-Qataries. Since there are so many foreign workers there, I found many people from different cultures. And even then, it was noticeable that every culture had a different status in Qatar. The darker the skin, the lower position some had at work. I barely met any women.
With my photos I wanted to show the abundant friendliness and kindness of those workers. With patience and dignity they were selling ice cream on the street for feeding their families and they still present you with a kind smile. The dark and dirty house entrances I photographed give an idea how they might live. And this was even the „better“ housing. There were many other areas where no press was allowed, for a good reason.
What was your motivation behind working on this in particular?
I wanted to document what impressions I got through people contact. I also wanted to show how good we are doing back here in Europe. No old man should carry the shopping of others in the market.
Social inequality is a big issue in Qatar, but it seems that everyone accepts the facts and plays by the rules.
What was the most significant element of the series that you experienced? The people, place, culture or a quote from someone you met there maybe?
I was fascinated by all the different cultures, the fresh fish I ate and the kindness of people. Being in Doha reminded me of the importance of earning an honest and reasonable salary, but also showed me how rich the rich are.
What is the poignant take away you would like people to take from this body of work?
Appreciate what you have, be thankful and stay kind to all. My travel to Qatar also taught me how to trust myself as a photographer and to be brave to talk to people. I wish I had more time to document more stories, especially of the construction workers, of Christians and of women in Qatar.