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Observer of Contemporary Art in Abu Dhabi


Every year photography as art becomes more and more widespread. As the old English proverb says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Images can be used in various contexts, for example, to convey complex ideas more easily. A wide range of means of creative expressiveness, for example, the combination of multiple elements in the image, can allow the realization and transmission of a vast number of thoughts. Finally, the proliferation of photography is driven by the expansion of widely available cameras.

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The current level of technological advancement allows almost any smartphone user to join the photographer’s movement. As a result, amateur and professional photography boundaries are gradually blurring. There is no need to buy any special equipment since most modern smartphones allow for taking reasonably good photos. In addition, there is a considerable amount of software allowing users to make an award-winning image even from an average photo quality. Although many internationally renowned photographers say that such products destroy the purity of this art, it also creates many new trends and attracts people to professional photography.

This presentation aims to explore the perspective of an observer in the context of contemporary art. Abu Dhabi, my hometown, is rich in photographers, both amateur and professional. However, as practice shows, it is often quite difficult to distinguish one from the other.


One of the most popular topics in today’s popular photography is food. The prevalence of images on this topic forms a whole direction – digital food experience, focused on mouth-watering photographs of food that reflect the aesthetics of dishes. As studies by Andersen, Byrne, and Wang (2021) show, this topic has become even more relevant recently with the spread of COVID-19, as many people have moved their activities to the digital space. While professional photographers use food as a subject of photography for aesthetic or symbolic purposes, ordinary people are often motivated by other reasons. For example, photos of food from high-end restaurants can showcase a person’s status, grab subscribers’ attention, and create an aura of wealth. On the other hand, such images can demonstrate their skills: both culinary and photographic.

Abu Dhabi is home to a considerable number of renowned restaurants, cafes, and other gourmet food establishments. Abu Dhabi’s chefs specialize in cuisines ranging from American to Middle Eastern (Shephard, 2019). Anyone in the city can find food that suits their tastes, both nutritious and aesthetic. Accordingly, such places of interest attract many world-famous bloggers and influencers in the town to pursue beautiful photographs. Researching relevant hashtags on popular social media platforms like Instagram can yield many mouth-watering food photography images. At the same time, it can be complicated to distinguish pictures taken by tourists from the work of professional photographers.


One of the most widespread and fundamental forms of photography, especially in the professional field, is art. Images created from this perspective carry meaning and demonstrate the creator’s vision of a particular issue. Accordingly, the creativity of professionals and amateurs should be strikingly different in quality. However, it is necessary to take into account aspects of contemporary creativity. Although better equipment is available to professionals, modern art often focuses not on the photographs’ quality but also on their content. The transmission of the necessary idea now can be carried out even with the help of intentionally low quality and purely digital additions – text, glitches, filters. Therefore, the separation of professionals from amateurs in the modern context becomes even more problematic.

Abu Dhabi is currently attracting more attention from artists and art lovers due to the active development of this area. In 2017, Louvre Abu Dhabi was opened as a collaboration between traditional design and modern technology (“Louvre Abu Dhabi,” n.d.). Guggenheim Abu Dhabi follows a similar direction, combining different cultures, and reflecting the intertwining of art in the modern world (“Guggenheim Abu Dhabi,” n.d.). Thus, Abu Dhabi is gradually taking the place of a stop on the international art circuit, which attracts more and more people to the field of art, including photography.

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Travel is one of those themes in which the art of photography can be most fully expressed. Landscape painting can be considered the origin of this trend; however, photography has several significant advantages over painting. Using the camera allows capturing the world around you in absolute accordance with reality. Like when painting landscapes, a photographer needs to find an angle and catch the moment for a good photo. However, this process takes much less time and is less susceptible to external conditions. While the artist is forced to rely on his memory, photographers can easily carry all the equipment with them. Thus, the pleasure of travel is combined with the creative process of photographing (Singh, 2019). With the proliferation of mobile devices, this task has become even more simplified, which has led to the flourishing of amateur travel photography.

The beauty of this trend is the ability to capture the world around you and share its beauty with other people. In this context, modern smartphones are the most convenient tool for this. People who have an adventurous spirit and a thirst for adventure can quickly become a part of the massive community of travel photographers. Therefore, it is not surprising that this particular direction is highly developed in Abu Dhabi, the city of travelers and explorers. Although the UAE is only a stopover for many, this region is capable of providing much more.


Photography of architecture, in a sense, can be considered a continuation of the travel theme. To find suitable frames of buildings and structures, you need to travel no less; only the circle of trips is limited to cities and attractions. At the same time, the objects of photography do not have to be shining megacities – filming the national architectural culture of the province can be just as valuable and exciting. Because architectural photography is available to anyone with a camera, the popularity of this genre of photography is only growing. At the same time, this leads to an increase in the number of amateur photographers, who sometimes are in no way inferior to professionals, using imagination and originality even concerning objects of architecture that have been studied for a long time.

A photographer in this field can start by capturing local landmarks, after which a vast expanse opens up in front of them. As in any other creative area, architecture has its famous personalities, whose works can be studied, including through photography. In this context, Abu Dhabi is a fascinating city to explore due to its incredible number of unique buildings. The city is an example of applying the principles of advanced architecture and the combination of cultural traditions and urban design (Garvey, 2018). For those who love the work of Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, or Zaha Hadid, Abu Dhabi can be the perfect destination for architectural photography. The unique ideas of leading architects are so common here that they are considered a common occurrence, so you will not be bored in this city.

Critical Analysis of Art

Art is one of my main passions, which I devote a lot of my free time to. Abu Dhabi provides tremendous cultural opportunities for exploring a wide variety of content, including art. However, these opportunities differ from professional ones, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi galleries or simply cultural objects that can be found on the streets throughout the city. Within the framework of this presentation, several works were selected for critical analysis, noted by many art lovers. Abu Dhabi-related social media posts are brimming with art almost as much as food. The value of this category of art lies in the fact that art is truly in the eye of the beholder. Only the presence of a viewer allows you to appreciate the art. In this context, the rise of amateur photography is even more intriguing, as amateurs can bring new perspectives and fresh ideas.

First of all, it should be noted that the work of professionals visually looks much more elaborated and of high quality. Undoubtedly, part of this merit lies with better equipment, but at the same time, the composition and lighting in professional art are performed at a much higher level. For example, the work shown in figure 12 is a well-executed art object, and figure 11 is a stylized poster. The quality of both works can be seen both at the design stage and the stage of subsequent processing. Both photographs are complete art objects with integrity and an idea embedded in them. On the other hand, figures 16 and 17 show photographs of ready-made objects, and the visual quality of both the objects themselves and the photographs is much lower. For example, figure 17 is a snapshot of a workflow showing both the work and its author. Thus, the pictures contain unnecessary elements of the environment. However, these same elements make the photographs more vivid and closer to reality. In contrast, the figures discussed above look overly professional, as if they were ready to be sent to a magazine.

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However, in both groups of work, both professional and amateur, there are common elements. This unified, bonding element is the idea. The results of both groups are not art for the sake of art, but carry a message, and reflect certain concepts. Almost all of the photographs in this group depict women, and many reflect the attitude towards women in society. For example, figure 12 illustrates a small dining table with legs shaped like women’s legs. Such an image refers the viewer to the idea that is often stereotypically assigned to a woman in society – the role of service personnel. With the help of such an art object, the author draws the viewer’s attention to gender roles and inequality in society.

On the other hand, figure 16, at first glance, depicts a feminine silhouette combined with intertwined lines. However, much more important here are details that are not immediately apparent. The small scar on the woman’s neck symbolizes the pain and suffering she went through, and the continuing texture of the crown suggests the woman’s personal growth. This work is dedicated to demonstrating the spiritual strength of a woman who, despite difficult trials, successfully overcomes them and continues to move in the chosen direction. Both of these images are extremely important from the point of view of the representation of women and reveal the different problems that women face in society. Thus, professional and amateur art has several similarities and a large number of differences.

Conclusion of the Critical Analysis

However, I tend to think that these two areas are incredibly close and similar. Although the quality of amateur photography is lagging behind, the form and implementation of art objects allow us to close our eyes to certain inaccuracies and design flaws. Naturally, more professional works will look more profitable at serious exhibitions and on the pages of magazines, making serious competition for amateur works. However, the difference in quality between the results is not that big. With the right software and additional post-processing, amateur photos can come close to professional quality. And this, in turn, will allow amateurs to compete with professionals in all seriousness.

The reason for this is the presence of an idea based on which the art is built. It does not matter in what environment and with what resources the conceived concept is implemented. It can be either an expensive object placed in an exhibition or a simple graffiti on the wall. Much more important is the idea that the author wants to convey. From this perspective, both amateur and professional art, as demonstrated in the critical analysis, have a right to exist. They have slightly different audiences and focus but are equivalently the right ways to develop essential ideas and communicate them to society. From this point of view, the current technological progress has provided an enormous number of people with the opportunity to realize and represent ideas by creating art objects. Although many elements of this contemporary art are not of high importance, thanks to the available options, truly ingenious and breakthrough ideas worthy of professionals can be generated among such amateurs.


Andersen, T., Byrne, D. V., & Wang, Q. J. (2021). How digital food affects our analog lives: The impact of food photography on healthy eating behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 980.

Garvey, C. (2018). Inspiring architecture in Abu Dhabi. Web.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (n.d.). Web.

Louvre Abu Dhabi / Ateliers Jean Nouvel. (n.d.). Web.

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Shephard, H. (2019). Here all of the very best restaurants in Abu Dhabi. Web.

Singh, G. (2019). Travel photography – how to blend your passion with profession. Web.

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