Letters from the Larmours » Stories from the travels of the Larmour Family

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Postcards from our neighbourhood

So, I’m doing this fabulous photography course that amongst other things is encouraging us to think deeper and previsualise and just generally put more thought into our pictures. This weeks assignment was to take your camera, 1 lens only, and photograph your neighbourhood in your photography style, in 36 pictures or less, without looking at what you’d taken until you got home…

My first thought was that this was just the perfect assignment for me – it’s a personal project I’ve had in the back of my head for months as our lease nears it’s end – we’ve lived here for almost 6 years and are likely to move to a different part of town later in the year – this area has been good to us – it’s special, it has everything we need in so many ways, except outdoor space for the kids to play and that’s what I dream of for my apartment living kids…. When I started thinking more though I realised I would have photographed it as an area, as I do in travel photos, and the kids wouldn’t have been in the pictures so in an attempt to make it more “my style” I took the girls out on the photo adventure too – it became a dinner time topic of conversation the days before as we talked a lot about places that are special to us, places we’d miss, things that drive us crazy – all important elements… I approached this perhaps more as I approach my my travel photos of the kids – trying to capture their sense of wonder and interest in the world – this is such a different environment to where I’d do client shoots…

What I really wanted to capture was a sense of how densely packed the area we live in is – how we’re surrounded by buildings and cars and a special kind of choas – but without taking the obvious street pictures – so I tried to capture that in reflections and in the background of my pictures. Typically in pictures I take for clients luscious backlight is a big feature, but in town here at 4pm there’s little sunlight reaching the ground even though it won’t get dark for another couple of hours.

Capturing all of this in 36 pictures was tough (and I cheated at one point and added in some extra pictures the girls wanted taking – I’ll explain them when we get to them) and I know I do need to go back round our block and take more detail pictures – but for now, these are my 36, capturing the spirit of our neighbourhood, all within 250m of our building, in my style!

NOTES: All taken with my D600 (which is my travel camera as opposed to my work camera), 35mm 2.0 lens – first pictures taken from 4pm – second set from 6:30pm.  The D600 is proving to be a challenge to me – I just don’t love the colours in the way I love them from my D700 – so here was another challenge I added into the mix!!

We started at the bakery – a favourite place just next to our building – they make the best huge breads (you can see here and here)

Our favourite salon – you have to pass through a special curtain inside the door so that when the door opens noone will see any of the ladies inside getting their beauty treatments done – the ladies here are so sweet and friendly – we visited later too, as you’ll see;)Saffy was practicing her hip-hop routine for her upcoming dance show. I love the mop propped up beside the shop!We have a few of these electricity substations around and I always love the patterns and textures on themWe went to our favourite Chinese grocery to find it had closed – Saffy, who was born in China, nearly criedAaaah. some sunlight filtering through, and a tree,:Dthat’s more my style!A bad picture – focus and exposure all wrong, but that’s fine… balancing, one of the girls favourite things to do around town!This is our local supermarket – shelves piled high and aisles so narrow they don’t have trolleys – it’s like a little rabbit warren, the aisles don’t even all run parallel, some are off at an angle to make maximum use of the limited space they have – we shop here a couple of times a week for every day essentials – the bag packing guy is Egyptian and wants the girls to marry his 2 sons!! He wasn’t there or I’d have tried to take his photoIndy decided she wanted henna… keep reading… these girls milked me for treats on this afternoon;)They sell everything in there, honestly! The girls sang the alphabet song while showing me these stickers.All shops must display pictures of the Sheikhs – this is Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE on the right, and Sheikh Khalifa, the current president on the left – usually Sheikh Mohammed is also displayed with them but he may have been somewhere else, or maybe these ones are for sale. As you can see, it’s piled high with everything you could possibly want. Another reason I’ll be sad to leave this area – anything we want we can get anytime of day!We love finding little gems on the street – this is a picture the girls like to take and put on instagram!!The photo adventure did us a favour as we found where the Chinese grocery had moved to – someone was super happy to find her favourite chinese sweetsKandoora shop – kandooras are either the long white gowns that men wear here, or the brightly coloured dresses the ladies wear under their abayas – the girls were loving all the colours of them, but for  I loved the picture in black and whiteA lot of rubbish gets dumped on the street – the great thing is there are plenty of people who go around and make some extra cash from it – this is where the cardboard recycling man stores his stuff – he gets a lot from me from all my product packaging – the kids were a bit over the adventure by now!!So I took them for juice – this place is also just next to our home – fresh squeezed right in front of youI love this one – it’s so them and how they share things, and it captures some of the grunginess of our neighbourhood too – although I then decided it would be better if Indy wasn’t blocking Saffy’s light – a case where I should have though the photo through before taking it perhaps… hence the next one, which funnily I just don’t love quite so much!This one I love with the building reflections in – it helps to tell the story of where we live without being an obvious buildings picture – wish I’d focussed on Indy instead of the reflection in the doorSince they were babies they’ve always jumped off this strip of path every time we walk to the shop – one of those every day memories that I needed a picture of to help me rememberRoad works and the frustrations that go with them have been a large part of our lives since living in this area.This is one I’ll go back and take again – the composition is so off – it’s our local fruit and veg man – it’s actually 3 of them – 3 brothers from Afghanistan who are so sweet and friendly – the girls call it the Afghan Man shop! No idea why they have an I Love Lebanon sign on their door!!This was me being brave and asking if I could take a picture of one of the brothers – not a great picture, but a memory preserved all the same. You can see pictures of the brothers with their family on the wall – they like to chat about themOne of my favourite shots – very my style and it just made me smile how Saffy is cradling her bananasSo the girls saw the henna lady in the street and ran over to say hello to her – they bugged and bugged me to get henna done and I figured, hell why not, it’s part of living here….These are my 4 cheat pictures – I probably wouldn’t have taken them as the whole henna thing wasn’t part of what I had in my head when we set out but I figured I may never get another chance to take their picture with the henna lady – they also asked for the picture of their finished armsWe went home, had dinner and allowed the henna to dry and then ventured back out as it was starting to go dark – back past the Princesses Salon – Indy is always fascinated by the heads with wigs and crowns!! Their visual merchandising is certainly unique – they used to have a psychadelic flashing picture of Mecca in the window – I’m kind of sad I never took a picture of it and now it’s goneDown to the mosque as the sunset prayer call was going – we live right between 2 mosques and sometimes the prayer calls compete! It has become background noise to us over the years but visitors always seem to get woken by the sunrise call.I told them to wait for the prayer calls to finish and we’d go over to the mosque – they monkied around while we waited – I don’t mind.. they don’t get enough outdoor time to climb and stuff, I’m willing to take the opportunities whenever and however they arise! I really wanted to focus on Saffy’s henna but with the mosque and buildings around – and the fact that as the minaret lights are on you can tell it’s sunsetAnother friendly baker! he finished this lot and then popped across the road to pray.I wanted to take a photo of all the shoes outside the mosque, but to do it in my style it was probably going to need to have a child in it… even though my focus is slightly off I love the movement of Saffy balancing along the wall. I also love that it’s such an inclusive society here that no one really bats an eye at little blonde girl balancing along the mosque wall, whilst it’s full inside with men praying (both mosques by our home are mens only mosques). On a Friday this whole area is full, and people spread into the street and across to the pavements by the other buildings to pray – at Eid you literally can’t get down the street for people praying – quite a sight to see, but I’ve always felt it too intrusive to take photos – people generally don’t like their photo taking here, so generally I don’t ask… (also, having 2 blonde girls in the Middle East we get asked for photos a lot, so I also know how intrusive it can be from the other side)And finally, by the abaya shop, at night, with all it’s neon glow – which has blown out in certain areas and looks somewhat crazy, but this is what our neighbourhood looks like at night – when all the neon comes on and people come out onto the street because it’s finally cool enough to go outdoors and so the shops stay open late. The man was a stranger, I didn’t ask to take his picture but he didn’t move when he saw me shooting – I like that he’s there – this is what my area is like, people everywhere…

I’m so pleased that this project made me slow down and think what my key pictures would be – I didn’t have a definitive list so I could be flexible but I got a lot of things that have been part of our lives for the last 6 years – I know I want to go out again, maybe without the girls and get more details, and I think next time I’ll also be slower, more observant – a few of these pictures I’d have liked to have shot again from a technical perspective, but really, I think they’re representative of life in my little corner of Abu Dhabi – yes, it’s the worlds richest city, but we’re not super rich people and that’s not how we live – we’re down to earth and comfortable people, just like this corner of town:D

Until next time, Kirsty xx

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Summer

Wow Kirsty. I love these. What a story you just told. I may have to challenge myself and do this….36 pictures around my neighborhood (although my neighborhood is not quite as interesting) . And I still want you to adopt me…

This is my first time on your blog, and I just HAD to comment. This post is incredible — it’s inspiring, it’s full of life, and I absolutely LOVE how the photographs show your girls as such a part of the neighborhood, and the neighborhood a part of them. I’m an American who was born in Mexico, lived in Europe as a girl, and have lived all over the US. These photos tugged at my heart and reminded me of my traveling childhood. Thank you for sharing!!

i just discovered your blog via Gina (above) and felt the same urge to comment. Your photography is amazing and I love reading about each photo. I feel the colors of full of life and your girls are lovely.

I’m looking forward to following along.
I also shoot with a D600 :)

Mum

That really is moving. So many memories for us too a gentle reminder of the area you live in which we have only often seen when we are scurrying off somewhere else. I might have added the kittens near the afgan shop or where the children jumped off the kerb–or probably the next generation of them Saffy & Indy just had to stop and talk to them and the crazy car parking.
Loved thw whole thing so many memories!

Kirsty

Mum, the kittens aren’t there any more, and not so many street cats round here in general these days – and funnily enough the henna lady and the other lady in the salon were also talking about how the kids always used to go and talk to them when we were in there :D

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