Category Archives: Dubai
Very proud to see this feature in the arts&life section of The National. We did have a wonderful adventure on the farm at Al Asayl, playing with ponies and photographing dawn til dusk. Kelly Eide was a magnificent workshop companion and I very much hope we’ll work together again. As someone who has designed my own career through instinct and passion, it is one of the many delights when you find someone with similar outlook with whom you can create something like this workshop.
We had Hugo and Ravi from The National down for the day, and we hope we showed these two unhorsed lads a good time.
Below are two of my (so far) favourite images I have created from the workshop. More will follow.
The time arrived. Sadly there were technical problems and the prints that were due for production by September were delayed, and finally I received them last week whilst here in the UAE. Much to my excitement..but with a few butterflies filling my belly as is often the case when I produce new work. The unveiling was a success and the first two (of three) have now been framed.
Little by little I will build this collection. They are magical, so simple in their duo-tone appearance, but an earthy quality I love and that compliments my chosen subject matter: the horse.
It has been an adventure out here in the UAE so far and I am really beginning to get into the swing of things, photographing a wonderful variety of always more-than-beautiful horses. Most recently I was lucky enough to share the weekend with a small group of delightful people who left their worries at home and brought their cameras and creative selves to an exceedingly tranquil setting in Abu Dhabi. Al Asayl farm – hosted by Forta Stud Arabians and Al Asayl Showjumping. I’m getting pretty snappy at spying good locations in amongst the palms, out in the desert, behind shady barn doors, and we juggled the harsh light of day with the glowing sunrise and sunset and multiple beautiful horses in between.
The workshop was a conspiracy between myself and Equus Life Coach Kelly Eide, and so not only were we studying horses through our lenses, but Kelly was arming us with a whole new set of thoughts and skills with which we should approach our work with horses. The balance was perfect, and we observed, observed, observed, as well as took the time to capture striking images that hopefully sum up the special weekend that was had by all eager photographers.
For now I will share a little behind the scenes action and later I might top up the story with a few finished photographs… if I can find the time to stop long enough to sit and process them. Tomorrow, I go off piste into the African World of Wildlife at Al Ain Zoo, and this weekend will be trackside at dawn and ogling at stallions down my lenses. Life is good and I’m so grateful to all those who are enabling all these shoots to take place. Magical.
2012 was quite a year, both personally and professionally. First off, I got married and, in amongst all the excitement of my wedding, I also managed to explore many new places, meet many wonderful people and capture a world of images for many exciting new projects. Indeed, 2012 also saw exponential growth across every aspect of Astrid Harrisson Photography; not just in the fine art equine side of my work, but also in all my other challenging pursuits including, of course, working in cahoots with renowned author Tamsin Pickeral on our collaborative coffee table book projects. The successful launch of “The Majesty of the Horse” in the States back in 2011 (Barron’s Publishing) was followed soon after by the book’s launch in the UK in 2012 (Harper Collins) and this paved the way for the creation of our second title “The Spirit of the Dog” and most recently our third, on cats…
Here is a visual feast that will give you some insight into which trees I’ve been hiding up, which animals I’ve been chasing or which tables I’ve been dancing on…
January 2012; Wales – Dubai
The year began on the beach, in Wales, in the fog, chasing Lullah the Great Dane. Or should I say…being chased by Lullah.
Luckily for me, the British winter was a short one and by mid January I was in Dubai, where there was non-stop activity revolving around the launch of “The Majesty of the Horse”, in and around the Majlis Gallery. Unusually for me, I spent some time in front of the camera, being photographed and filmed whilst I worked with the most astounding Arabian horses in the Emirate of Ajman. The footage was later televised in the UAE, and I also had my ’15 moments’ of fame during a radio interview, and was fortunate enough to display my work in an intimate exhibition at the Majlis Gallery I had some wonderful experiences in the desert with some Emirati falconers. I got up close and personal at UAE Nations Cup Final collecting high velocity material I have been toying around with ever since. The finale was of course the splendorous World Cup Racing event at Meydan. Spectacle after spectacleincluding meeting one of the world’s shortest dogs – Sybil the wirehaired dachshund – who sadly didn’t make the final cut for the book, but is without doubt worthy of a mention. Here’s a snippet.
February 2012; UK
By February, my dog shoots were well underway, and I was ticking them off the list fast and furiously, with a whole pack of them lined up for me in the USA. But before I went, I squeezed in a cuddle by the AGA with Glanton, the grandest Irish Wolfhound of all time – so grand, so graceful. Glanton’s neighbour, Arthur the Labrador, also deserves a mention, for sadly Arthur did not make the final cut for the bookI reckon the Labrador breed deserves its own book heir loyalty is phenomenal. There are so many wonderful Labs that I met along the way, and Arthur was a joy to roll around with in the snow. Julia, my gorgeous intern (who has since established the Holbox Gallery in Argentina –), was with me at the time, and I think she enjoyed the experience too. Quintessentially British. Playing with Labradors in the snow with views across icy rivers to gorgeous old mansions.
February 2012; New York
Leave the warmth of the UAE for the Big Apple in February? And why not…Just look at the glamour that awaited. Prize goes to Leo, Afghan Hound, for being the most glamorous dog I have photographed – probably ever! He was truly amazing and we trotted around Manhattan, causing all sorts of traffic-stopping mayhem as we went.
From City Slicker to a horse’s nicker; Long Island – shooting American Foxhounds on the scent with their hunt, and with the glamorous Martina in our snow suits – the only way to be: not quite so ‘brrr’. This excitement preceded more City-glamour, with Jorge Bendersky and Tito the Pomeranian. We got caught trying to take some pictures on New York’s high line, so ventured to some positively giant steps for Tito to teeter on whilst he posed for the camera.
Fun in the park with Irish Water Spaniels. Weeeee!
February 2012; Colorado
New York was a hit, but I didn’t rest long – next stop Colorado..and some truly rare breeds in an incredible canyon. Here are the Basenji…and below them are a troop of English Setters, a striking Bedlington Terrier, Great Pyrenees (mountain polar bear-type!), Siberian Huskies, an American Eskimo Dog and the rare Norwegian Lundehund.
Just some of the many wonderful breeds I got to work with in and around Denver, Colorado.
February 2012; N & S California; Road tripping.
California was a success. From way north of Sacramento to San Fransisco, Carmel and the Big Sur, down to southern Los Angeles suburbs and beyond. The mileage clocked up, but I met some truly spectacular hounds – and their owners of course! These guys get the prize for being the most well trained, I think. The Australian Cattle Dog.
Prize for these guys is the most adventurous shoot – up trees, I was hiding with a scented raccoon toy! I wasn’t (really) scared, as the Bluetick Coonhound are a beautiful and intelligent breed. But when the publishers asked for pictures of ‘coonhounds up trees, I hadn’t realised they weren’t actually joking, until I met this pack o’ soppy hounds.
More soppy hounds. The Plott Hound. Miraculous I made it out alive… just joking, they were highly trained, skilled and certainly a challenge to photograph.
Pool-side glamour. Much better. The elegant Ibizan Hound in Beverly Hills, California. Absolutely delightful and very striking. Energetic and frenetic, but so poised and architectural…yes, I liked working with these guys.
To the beach…gorgeous Carmel. Prize here goes to Remington – the Papillon, for having one of the most gorgeous hair dos. Just look at it blowing in the wind…
Ogling at the surfers. Don’t mind if I do…
March 2012; wrapping up the season in Dubai
Views from the East Coast UAE.
Talk about globe-trotting. I am so very lucky to have met such wonderful people on my journeys. It was a total delight to cross paths with the incredible artist Marcus Hodge, with whom we shared many laughs and creative days out painting/photographing and ogling at stunning horses, and even a horse ride in the dunes. Admittedly we were not allowed ‘off leash’, for these stunning Friesian horses are worth more than I could possibly imagine, but after spending a few hours photographing at the Ajman Stud, we were permitted to hop aboard and count our lucky stars.
Back to England just in time to see the bluebells. And to meet Bentley, the coolest Jack Russell in town. Owned by equally cool Zebedee, this was definitely one of my most favourite shoots on British soil. The oxygen, spring in the air, spring in my step. Nearly there… Bentley must have been about number 80-s0mething out of 90 breeds we were including in the book. That’s a lot of rolling around on the floor, I can tell you.
Nearly last on the list were a pack of Bloodhounds. Incredible creatures and I was almost bowled over at least twice! This image just makes me grin.
The final one. The Otterhound. This breed deserves the prize for the shoot that almost didn’t happen. “Most difficult to find breed” I think. They are incredibly rare and the owner has many of them, but the thing about my job is that I have learned not to expect too much from people. Even people wishing to promote a rare breed – people lead busy lives, and life is full for most of us I appreciate every single person who has spent time with me, corresponded with me, driven to meet me, shared with me their wonderful animals and a little of their lives. My travels have led me to some interesting and quirky places, some high, some low, some hot, some cold, some bright, some dull, wet, windy, snowy, cold, icy, treacherous…all of the above. Thank you everyone for helping Tamsin Pickeral and I see our books come to life with images of such wonderful creatures. Thank you for having the patience to let me take ‘just one more’ shot… the last ones are usually the best.
And so to spring. We adopt 6 new chickens and a Whippet puppy – called Remy after Remington the gun brand… not the Papillon in California, in case you’re interested. Fresh eggs daily, a few hard drives of images to process, and a wedding to plan…and it’s only April.
“Steve” the cochin.
Remy – Official Press Dog when Prince Charles & Camilla visit Alderney.
Charles & Camilla spend time in Alderney.
Highlight? Definitely getting to meet Monty Roberts with the wonderful Satish Seemar and his daughter Tara.
My first official cat shoot for book number three – which at this stage was not yet a dead cert. Not only was I testing my ability to capture something novel and exciting with a new species, but I also got to test-drive a new lens (thank you Nikon). This is Issy – my first official feline model.
September; our Spanish wedding
If you wonder where I was in September, I was off radar down in Spain, having a party. With horses, of course…and dancing. A lot of dancing.
October 2012; book launches & exhibitions
Arriving at London’s King Cross St Pancreas, we then hit the road on a UK tour, complete with wedding dress in tow…we have several wonderful events marking the launch of both “The Spirit of the Dog” and “The Majesty of the Horse”, including a phenomenally successful and well-attended evening at The Chelsea Arts Club in London, and a talk at The Book Ferret in West Sussex at which we delved right back into the making of the books, telling tales of our adventures and showing slideshows. Like a travelogue of sorts, with both Tamsin and I beaming ear to ear with the memories of making the horse book, in particular.
Waterstones – Cirencester; another successful event hosted by the one and only Minnie – cover girl, with Jasper the proud Labrador and the beautiful Sloughis featured in the book, greeting all their fans.
To mark the launch, Tamsin and I produced a set of limited edition greetings cards – one dog set, one horse set. 10 cards and envelopes with unique text on the reverse about the breed depicted on the front. I wish we could produce more of these.
Art For Youth Exhibition – London October 2012…another roaring success. The two abstract polo images below were shot in Dubai earlier in the year. Brand new pieces, printed directly to metal; edition of 3. They were amazing to receive…it always is when I work on something new. I like the grittiness. I like dust flying, movement, action.
From the streets of Manhattan to the walls of London’s Chelsea Arts Club – here is Leo, the infamous Afghan Hound, printed, framed and looking glam as ever.
November 2012; New York
After a short spell unpacking my bags (and wedding dress) and collecting my wits as a newly married woman, it was time to leave again. Book number three underway, it was time to turn my focus to the glamourpusses of the world… first stop, NYC, and where better than to spend the afternoon cosying up with an American Curl. Meaow. I arrived in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and was staying on Long Island where I had to take stock of the severity of the devastation. Road closures; fallen tree-lined streets; general windswept feelings of the people I was meeting and some horrific stories.
Sadly I was not to traverse the globe searching for breeds in their country of origin, so here I was, still in Manhattan, lounging with a Siberian.
Swinging with a Singapura…
Swooning with a Savannah…
Canoodling with a Korat…
Meowing with an Egyptian Mau…
And romping with a Ragdoll – who, incidentally, lives in Manhattan’s Aldonguin Hotel, and who was the last living creature to see my diamond engagement ring…mmm…suspicious.
December 2012; California – Las Vegas – Palm Springs – Florida – North Carolina
Of course…British Winter would have to wait for me again. The sunshine of California and Florida beckoned. All that wonderful light, long sunny days, gloriously mild; perfect shooting conditions for me, considering most of my work was to be done indoors, with natural light. Rolling around with cats was certainly different to dogs, and I have to say I did not hold back – no sooner had I met the owners as I was down on my knees getting to know my subjects. Cats, it has to be said, are entirely different to work with, and not necessarily that easily coerced into situations that I would want them to be in. The most nervous cat was the rare Sokoke, who I met in Florida. We spent a good while relaxing in a room, listening to music, getting to know each other, before I could even bring the camera out. Worth the wait though.
The very cool Ocicat.
A day in Las Vegas meeting teeny, tiny and very rare Peterbalds, was a definite highlight.
It’s hard to photograph the important features of a breed when it means focusing on its backside – the Pixie Bob. Ooo yes I enjoyed cuddles with these guys!
One of the final shoots I will mention was one of the most surprising – as it was not planned! I got to meet the Lykoi. Which I had not even heard of until a few days prior to the shoot. It was tremendous. Wolf cat. The attitude was tremendous. Chilled out; honest; wise. It is remarkable how sensitive cats are and the emotions they give off. We shot this in a park, which was a wonderful thing…being back outdoors again with my camera.
Christmas arrived with only a handful of cats left to photograph for “The Beauty of the Cat” or “The Elegance of the Cat” (UK and USA names will differ). The book will be on the market by Autumn 2013, at which point Tamsin and I can sit back and gloat at just how wonderful our third collaboration has been. Whatever next? Well…I could mention that in between all this, I might have been photographing cows and donkeys and horse festivals in preparation for new proposals. It might not be a question of “which one?” but more like “which one first?”.
Images I shot at the Ajman Stud here in the UAE, whilst being followed by a TV crew, were snapped up for use in the latest edition of Concierge magazine, which I have yet to see in hard copy. The digital version looks great though and the triumphant moment was last night at the finale of the Arabian Horse Show here in Dubai, when Spartacus (featured in the magazine) triumphantly pranced around the arena looking more beautiful than I remember. I feel honoured to be included in the magazine and to be able to spend time with these truly remarkable horses.
This was a special day. We spent time seeing the other side of Dubai. The traditional side, that is calm and unassuming. Bumbling out to the desert in the back of a 4WD with three valuable birds sitting patiently just behind me, we then spent time watching as gentle Nasser and his colleague Sam talked to their birds and nestled them in the dunes ready for action. Actually, there was no action as this was purely a set up for us to take photographs, but nevertheless it was ritualistic and somewhat spiritual.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but I think I have found another subject matter that I’m definitely keen to revisit. We didn’t really scratch the surface of the culture or traditions that accompany falconry, but I believe that in time we will learn more about that and the art of the game. The passion for animals here in the UAE is quite remarkable, I have to say. Not ALL animals, but significant ones, historically-speaking.
And there it was….a two day window in which we chose to escape Dubai and head east to explore. Leaving City life behind, we ventured through the striking mountains of eastern UAE toward Fujeirah, camping overnight near Dibba, just south of the Musandan Peninsula, and again in Kalba, south of Fujeirah, by the beautiful mangroves.
I won’t mention the petrolheads who came and disturbed the peace whilst we were trying to sleep, because them aside, this really was a magical escape and a well-needed distraction from all that is occupying my mind. I even left my laptop behind…