ISTABSIR






At the start of 2010 I helped launch the photo column ISTABSIR. The title is derived from an Arabic verb which means to attentively reflect on and contemplate with respectful consideration. There are no guidelines in regard to content. In fact, the Director of Photography Brian Kerrigan simply instructed me to show our readers the United Arab Emirates. 

The column runs weekly in The National where I am a full time staff photographer.

Unlike most single image photo columns - Istabsir runs multiple images per story. Each essay receives an entire page (w/o ads) in the news section of our publication. Amazing, especially in this day and age where tightened newsroom budgets and limited space don't allow for such freedom. 

In an effort to share the stories with as many eyes possible I'm going to do my best to start posting a new column each week here on my blog. 

This first essay is a look at the South Asian working class in the United Arab Emirates. The copy that ran with the images is provided below. 

Thank you for looking. 

- - - -

SOUTH ASIAN: WORKING CLASS
TEXT BY: RICH-JOSEPH FACUN

Although the United Arab Emirates has one of the most diverse populations in the Middle East roughly 50 percent of the UAE’s population is from South Asia while 23 percent of the population are non-Emirati Arabs or Persians. The population of the UAE currently stands at six million. This comprises both Emiratis and expatriates. Much of the recent rise in this figure is attributed to the rapid  increase in the expatriate community. 
More specifically, South Asian working class men have been lured to the UAE for the economic opportunities and the standard of living it can provide. These men typically reside from countries such as India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Like many professional Western expatriates these men hope to better their lives and those of their family members. 
Currently, the population of the UAE has a skewed sex distribution consisting of more than twice as many males as females. The 15-65 age group has a male/female sex ratio of 2.743. The UAE’s gender imbalance is only surpassed by other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region. 
Dubai is the most populated city with approximately 1.6 million people. Throughout the seven Emirates about 88 percent of the population in the UAE is urban. The remaining inhabitants live in tiny towns scattered throughout the country. 
The National’s staff photographer Rich-Joseph Facun visited both urban and rural areas ranging from Liwa to Ajman photographing a few of the UAE’s labor force from South Asia. The following images are a brief documentation replacing statistics with names and faces.