Dubaï, Abu-Dhabi – 2010/2011
Workers Emirates illuminates the ‘ghost-like existence of migrant workers, who apply all their strength in the construction of metropoles of hypercapitalism in the UAE.
Photographer Philippe Chancel calls these cheap laborers «new slaves», who underpin the Gulf’s hyper-development yet remain marginalized by society. His photographs illustrate the juxtaposition of workers in conspicuously bright colored clothing and their invisibility in an environment that ignores their plight – as individuals who sustain society and yet are simultaneously excluded from both its luxuries and its basic virtues.
No matter how they are wrapped up, hooded or camouflaged, there are all portraits of people. Philippe Chancel strives to give them back their identity. His aim is for realism, or more exactly the need to show the reality. There is no arrangement, no creation of scenarios, no fiction. He never asked any of them to pose.
The series «recumbent effigies» (title of the third section of his book «Workers emirates») gathers photographs taken between 2007 and 2011, mostly in Dubaï, Abou Dhabi and Sharjah. Most of the year, the temperature exceeds 45°, which makes the very few shaded areas in public spaces and construction sites much sought-after, and the temptation to rest in-between short breaks too strong. Sluggish bodies seem to be absent, just like dead bodies.