Nick Hannes


Magnum Photography Award

My series 'Dubai. Bread and circuses' was awarded the Lensculture/Magnum Photography Award in the Documentary categorie. Hope this will help me in finding a good book editor and a nice exhibition space to release it in 2018...


An interview by Fiona MacDonald was published today on BBC Culture.


Striking photos of the ultimate playground for millionaires

“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.” Photographer Nick Hannes’s series Bread and Circuses ‘showcases Dubai as the ultimate playground of globalisation and capitalism’ – but he’s not offering any kind of judgement. Instead, his images are ambiguous, and often witty, glimpses of a lifestyle that can seem alien to many.

“The rapid transformation of Dubai from a dusty fishing town in the ‘60s to the ultramodern metropolis of today fascinates both supporters and critics,” Hannes writes in the project description; many of his photos almost force a double take, poking at the surface to show a different angle.

“Ninety per cent of the population of Dubai are expats,” Hannes told BBC Culture. “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.” With its artificial islands and buildings replicating world landmarks, Dubai can be seen as a kind of theme park for the wealthy: but Hannes looked beyond fast cars and couture logos.

“A very important source of inspiration for the Dubai series is The Capsular Civilisation, a book by Belgian philosopher Lieven De Cauter. It also provided a theoretical framework,” he says, explaining that De Cauter “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.”

He sees parallels in his latest project. “The process of urbanisation in Dubai strikingly resembles the phenomenon of capsularisation as defined by De Cauter. On a local scale, there is the segregation between the 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.”

Yet again he is keen to point out his photos don’t adhere to any definitive viewpoint. “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 economisation of society, authenticity, greed. I hope this will lead to self-reflection.”

Many of his photos appear like odd tableaux, their subjects lost in some kind of reverie. “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.”

Hannes visited Dubai in 2016 and 2017. “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 Dubai, where mostly Asian and African communities live.”

He was inspired to document Dubai after an earlier project. “Working on my latest book Mediterranean: The Continuity of Man, I started to get interested in artificial urban development and its impact on society,” he says, drawn to the tension between tourism and environmental protection. “For my next project I wanted to dive deeper into this subject—my curiosity drove me to Dubai, a very famous example of excessive and market-driven urbanisation.”

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Overview of current and upcoming exhibitions and events in which I take part:


August 5 - 27, 2017: 8ème Biennale de photographie en Condroz, Marchin (BE). I will show a preview of my new series DUBAI. Bread & Circuses'.marchin

September 1 - October 29, 2017: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at Städtische Galerie Iserlohn, Germany.iserlohn

September 6 - 20, 2017: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at Organ Vida Photo Festival, Zaghreb, Croatia.organvida

November - December 2017: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at Photolux Biennale internazionale di fotografia, Lucca, Italy.photolux

March - May 2018: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at 6ème Triennale Photographie et Architecture, Brussels (BE). Curator: Marc Mawet.ulb

March 10 - 25, 2018: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at FotoForum Brasschaat (BE)brasschaat

June 2018: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at the Hamburg Triennale of Photography,

PAST (selection):
January 26 - April 16, 2017: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at Centro Cultural Caja Granada Fundacion, Granada, Spain.

January 18 - February 9, 2017: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at PhotoMed Beirut, Lebanon.

June 27 - October 30, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at Centro Andaluz de la Fotografia, Almeria, Spain.

October 1 - 31, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at FotoIstanbul, Turkey.

June 9 - July 31, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at Athens Photo Festival, Benaki Museum.

May 25 - June 19, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at photo festival Photomed in Sanary-Sur-Mer, France.

June 9 - 19, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at Foto Festiwal Lodz, Poland.

May 14 - June 12, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at Fundación Tres Culturas del Mediterráneo in Sevilla, Spain.

April 29 - May 22, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at photo festival 'Head On' in Sydney, Australia.

April 1 - May 1, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at photo festival 'Photo de Mer' in Vannes, France.

December 4, 2015 - February 14, 2016: Group show 'Troubled Water. From Aesthetics to the Global Economy' at Muzeum Narodowe, Szczecin, Poland.

December 19, 2016 - January 31, 2016: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at C-Mine in Genk (BE). Opening night: Friday, December 18, 2016, 8PM.

June 23 - September 30, 2015: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man' at the 5th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (Greece). Entitled: 'Between the Pessimism of the Intellect and the Optimism of the Will'. Curated by Katerina Gregos. Organized by the State Museum of Contemporary Art (SMCA).

June 11 - august 30, 2015: Group show 'Facing Japan' at Museum Dr. Guislain in Ghent (B). Organized by Flanders Center in Osaka.

November 27, 2014 - February 1, 2015: 'Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man'. At FotoMuseum Antwerp (B).

November 15 - December 15, 2014: 'The Continuity of Man', preview at Cosmos Galerie in Paris, on the occasion of the 17th edition of Mois de la Photo.

September 3 - October 12, 2014: 'The Continuity of Man', preview at M. Zilinskas Art Gallery in Kaunas, Lithuania, on the occasion of Kaunas Photo Festival. Part of the group show 'Generation 1974', with works of 11 European photographers who were born in 1974.

May 3-18, 2014: 'Red Journey' at the 18ième Biennale Internationale de l'Image in Nancy, France.

April 11 - June 2, 2013: Kaunas Photo Festival, M.Zilinskas Art Gallery of the National M.K.Ciurlionis Art museum, Kaunas, Lithuania. On display: 'Traditions in Flanders' (selection)

February 8 - April 24, 2011: Group show 'Finisterre. Jonge fotografie in België' at FotoMuseum Antwerpen. Curated by Inge Henneman, Rein Deslé and Luc Derycke.

May 30 - June 18, 2011: Exhibition 'Red Journey' at Flanders Center in Osaka, Japan.

June 1 - September 4, 2011: Group show 'In de marge. Belgian Documentary Photography', at Museum Dr. Guislain Ghent. Curated by Kaat De Jonghe

June 29 - September 25, 2011: Group show 'Beyond the Document' at Bozar Brussels. Curated by Xavier Canonne (Musée de la Photographie de Charleroi); Pool Andries (FotoMuseum Antwerpen); Frank Vanhaecke (BOZAR EXPO)


Don’t take pictures

My photograph Aralsk, Kazakhstan, 2007 is picture of the day at Don't take pictures.donttakepictures

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Thisispaper published a portfolio of my first book, 'Red Journey', published in 2009 by Lannoo Belgium.

I spent a year travelling through the fifteen former Soviet republics in search of traces of the past and signs of social transition. Red Journey uncovers the various ways in which former Soviet countries are trying to redefine their national identity after the disintegration of the communist imperium.

The book 'Red Journey' is still available at the discount prize of 20 euro + shipping cost. Just send me a email at


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