Nick Hannes



Wired published a portfolio on my Dubai-work.


The wealthy never run out of ways to amuse themselves in Dubai, where you can party aboard a house floating in a man-made sea, stroll through an indoor rainforest, or kick back in an ice lounge where the temperature never climbs above freezing. In a city where everyone is rich, shopping malls resemble the Silk Road and the theme parks make Disneyland look small.
Nick Hannes takes you on a whirlwind tour of the emirate's carefully engineered attractions in his ongoing series Dubai: Bread and Circuses. “Dubai positions itself as a leading tourist and luxury lifestyle destination,” he says. “By this enormous supply of leisure activities, the emirate expresses the idea that everything is possible in Dubai, that the sky is the limit.”
Despite occasionally blinding sandstorms and triple-digit temperatures, Dubai is bent on becoming the Orlando of the Middle East. Some 15 million people visited the emirate last year, a number expected to reach 20 million by 2020. Developers are building attractions at breakneck speed to lure ever more people. "The hunger for new projects is unstoppable in Dubai,” Hannes says. “If they have 20 theme parks it doesn’t mean they will stop building theme parks. As long as they have space they will keep on constructing.”
Hannes enjoys photographing tourism in places like Turkey and Spain, and always found Dubai fascinating. He made his first visit in 2015 and has returned three times since then to wander the emirate's theme parks and malls (where visitors can shoot zombies, ski indoors, and dive with sharks) and visit its most opulent nightclubs. "It’s a conservative Islamic society on one hand, but 90 percent of the people are expats, a lot of westerners, and of course they have a more liberal lifestyle that is often completely the opposite of the locals," Hannes says.
Everything looks like it came from somewhere else. Ibn Battuta Mall, designed to resemble a trek along the Silk Road during the middle ages, features ornate Tunisian, Persian and Chinese ‘courts.' The Green Planet brings an artificial rain forest to the desert. “They import a lot of foreign architectural styles, some from the ancient past, and make up new things with it,” Hannes says. “It’s copy-paste architecture—beautiful, but completely fake."
Hannes' images might depict gilded relaxation and luxury, but he never got the chance to relax. He was too busy working. Dubai isn't exactly his idea of a vacation anyway. “I go to cities to photograph and to learn about society, but these are not the places where I enjoy myself,” he says.
(text: Laura Mallonee, 06.13.2017)

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Organ Vida – Zaghreb

As a finalist of the Organ Vida Photo Festival in Croatia, my series 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' will be presented at the main exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zaghreb. The 9 other finalists are: Miia Autio, John Feely, Daniel Castro Garcia, Ingvar Kenne, Annalisa Natali Murri, Drew Nikonowicz, Sarah Pabst, Alexandra Polina and Hannes Wiedemann. The jury members were: Pieter Hugo, Dana Lixenberg, Christina de Middel, Katrin Koenning, Leila Topić and Sean O’Hagan. The festival runs from September 6 to 20 2017.organcroatia

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Musee de la Photographie de Bruxelles

Vincen Beeckman invited an impressive list of mostly young photographers to participate in the 'Brussels Museum of Photography'. Each photographer presents his work in a beautifully designed wooden box, that can be opened by the public. The event takes place on June 29 at Recyclart art center, Ursulinenstraat 25, 1000 Brussel.
On July 13, the Museum will move to Culturel Center Breughel (Vossenstraat 1F, 1000 Brussels). And on August 3, it will take place at the tunnel of the Fonteinstraat in Brussels.

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Biennale de photographie en Condroz

From August 5 to 27 2017, I will present a preview of my new project 'DUBAI. Bread & Circuses' at the 8ième Biennale de photographie en Condroz. The central theme this time is: Rever / Dreaming. My exhibition will be shown the farm of the Seron family, in a cowshed. Curated by Emmanuel D'Autreppe and Pierre Mossoux. Other participants to the biennale are: Didier Bizet (F), Anne-Sophie Costenoble (B), Alexandre Christiaens (B), Sian Davey (GB), Alexandra Demenkova (RUS/ISR), Jean-François Flamey (B), Karel Fonteyne (B), Anne Greuzat (F), Marc Guillaume (B), Xavier Istasse (B), LaKabane (B), Baudoin Lotin (B), Marie Moroni (F), Paul Nougé (B), Jacqueline Roberts (F).

(c)Jacqueline Roberts, Menina, 2008

(c)Jacqueline Roberts, Menina, 2008

From the website:
Nick Hannes (Belgique) vit à Ranst, un village près d’Anvers, la ville qui l’a vu naître en 1974. Nick Hannes enseigne la photographie à l’école d’Arts de Gand et mène des projets à long terme qui font l’objet de grandes expositions et de livres. Le dernier, Mediterranean, The Continuity of Man, est paru à l’automne 2014 aux éditions Hannibal : vingt pays traversés, des milliers de kilomètres au long des rivages de la Méditerranée, de Gibraltar à Beyrouth, de Tripoli à Palerme... Pendant quatre ans, le photographe a effectué un grand tour pour découvrir la destinée de celle que les Romains surnommaient Mare Nostrum. Infiltré dans les cocktails monégasques ou les nuits branchées d’Ibiza, témoin du sort des migrants échoués sur l’île de Lampedusa ou des gamins pieds nus dans la poussière de Gaza, il dresse le portrait sans complaisance d’une Grande Bleue malmenée, chahutée mais toujours magnifique, diverse et plus vivante que jamais.
Lauréat de nombreux prix de photojournalisme, Nick Hannes est représenté par l’agence Cosmos. Après avoir déjà montré, il y a quelques éditions, des extraits de son travail sur les républiques d’ex-Union soviétique, Nick Hannes a réservé à l’édition 2017 de la Biennale quelques images de son travail, à peine achevé, sur Dubaï et les Emirats arabes unis : série à la fois plasticienne, citoyenne et documentaire, qui pose avec vertige et parfois jusqu’à l’absurde certains des enjeux les plus prégnants et les plus déstabilisants de la mondialisation, du choc des cultures, ou de l’avenir durable de nos modes de vie…

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The online photography platform Fotoroom published an interview with me on my new project 'DUBAI. Bread & Circuses'. Click here.

The interview:
Hello Nick, thank you for this interview. What are your main interests as a photographer?

As a documentary photographer I mainly do self-initiated projects, often with a social or political relevance. Main points of interest are: migration, urbanization, environmental issues, the impact of conflicts on society. In my work I’m looking for links between these contemporary topics, confronting parallel realities with each other. I try to detach from the moment and from the news value of an event in order to create more universal imagery that deals with the problematic relationship we have with each other, with our environment and with our world in general.

Please introduce us to your series, Dubai.

In a nutshell: the rapid transformation of Dubai from a regional trade post in the 1960s to the ultramodern metropolis it is today is a fascinating case study in market-driven urbanization. The entertainment and leisure industry, one of the main pillars of Dubai’s economy, has a great impact on the city's development. Related topics such as tourism, consumerism, prestige and luxury, also play an important role.

What inspired this project? Why did you decide to make work in Dubai?

Working on my latest book Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man, I started to get interested in artificial urban development and its impact on society. In countries such as Spain or Turkey, mass tourism is a major catalyst for coastal urbanization, and puts great pressure on natural landscapes and local communities. For my next project I wanted to dive deeper into this subject—my curiosity drove me to Dubai, a very famous example of excessive urbanization.

As an outsider, what are some of the things that impressed you the most about the city of Dubai and the local lifestyle?

The very first sight of Dubai’s skyline is overwhelming, regardless of any judgement you might have about the place. But as I got used to this new environment, I found everyday life rather predictable and conventional. There’s a lot of things to do, from skiing to desert safaris; but I missed spontaneity and surprise in the modern part of the city.

For a walk I much more enjoy Deira, the historic centre of the city, where mostly Asian and African communities live. This area, full of bazars and hectic streetlife, feels like another country. The mix of people—locals, expats and tourists—from all over the world is striking, and gives a cosmopolitan feel to Dubai.

Can you talk a bit about your approach to the work? What did you want your images to communicate?

90% of the population of Dubai are expats. Within this extremely heterogeneous group I decided to focus primarily on the upper middle class—the wealthier segment of society. I went to the places the members in this group go to have fun: nightclubs, beaches, theme parks, hotels, malls. Lots of these places seem surreal and dreamlike, as if it all happens in a parallel world where everybody is happy. However, when you take a closer look, there’s a lot of ambiguity in my work. If I would explain this into detail, I’d destroy my pictures.

Did you have any specific references or sources of inspiration in mind while working on Dubai?

The Capsular Civilisation, a book by Belgian philosopher Lieven De Cauter, has been a great source of inspiration to me, and also provided a theoretical framework for this documentary project. De Cauter analyzes the increasing trend of separation and exclusion in our globalized society. He imagines an extreme dual society: the first world is an archipelago of shielded islands or ‘capsules’, where it’s pleasant to live; the second world is all the rest: an ocean of chaos and poverty. In a capsular society, public space becomes privatized; capsular architecture—such as gated communities and malls—simulates public space on private ground. The new urbanity is characterized by artificial inner spaces.

The process of urbanization in Dubai strikingly resembles the phenomenon of capsularization as defined by De Cauter. On a local scale, there is the segregation between the inhabitants/expats and the migrant workers. On a global level, the United Arab Emirates can be considered as one big ‘capsule’, a safe haven in the unstable Middle East.

How do you hope viewers react to Dubai, ideally?

Dubai is both fascinating and controversial. It has fans and critics. I don’t like to decide what viewers should think when looking at my work; they should fill in the story according to their own visions and knowledge. I have no monopoly on truth, and therefore it’s not my intention to give answers. I’d rather raise questions, about sustainability, inequality, the economization of society, authenticity, greed. I hope this will lead to self-reflection.

What have been the main influences on your photography?

As a student I was highly influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson and the older generation of black and white documentary photographers. His legacy (the decisive moment, well-balanced compositions, etc.) still plays a role in my photography. I also feel a great affinity with film-maker Jacques Tati, when it comes to composition and the use of humor.

Who are some of your favorite contemporary photographers?

Mitch Epstein, Simon Norfolk, Alec Soth, Nadav Kander, Carl De Keyzer, Evgenia Arbugaeva, Trent Parke.

Choose your #threewordsforphotography.

Urban. Society. Tragicomedy.

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Triennale Hamburg 2018

'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' will be on show at the Triennal of Photography Hamburg in 2018.


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