[Note: orginally posted on my wordpress blog, 9/10/12]
The neon lit evenings of the grimy back streets in the less developed communities of the Emirates, offer a wealth of images. A fusion of cultures come together, working hard to offer their services. On this occasion, I visited the tailor we use from time to time, politely requesting if I could capture them in their work. At first it is obviously an odd occurrence for them, a six foot one white dude holding a backpack and tripod, but after exchanging pleasantries they soon settled back into work naturally as I became a fly on the wall.
Six gentlemen and their sewing machines are packed into two adjoining rooms which serves as their shop. It is set on a busy, noisy street, that is the main bypass for the behemoth trucks carrying rocks from the Hajar mountains, onto Dubai to build the next artificial wonder.
The business owner is Manoharn, and has been serving the Emirate for 27 years. Another tailor with him is Vinod, who has been here 19 years. Manikandan, Jayan and Santhosh are all veterans of the community and share another 25 years between them. They all hail from Kerala, a southern part of India which is often listed on travel newspapers as one of the places in the world you should visit during your lifetime.
The shop itself looked chaotic inside, shelves lined with unlabeled plastic bags of materials, and every corner of the room piled with fabric. As I carefully maneuvered through tight spaces with my tripod I was careful to not to trip over older machines and reels of cotton whilst getting the right angle. A few customers came in and out, but by now no fuss was made which of course would benefit the images.
Manoharn himself never sat at a machine; he was constantly busy, measuring fabric, ironing, cutting and drawing; then greeting customers and either adding another plastic bag to the rest, or without any hesitation pulling out a completed task to hand back to the customer.
After imposing long enough I felt it was time to go. Before shaking hands, giving thanks for allowing me to visit, a few obligatory posed shots were requested and of course I would not refuse.
Once in my car that was parked outside, I peered through the glass to see all the tailors continuing with their work in exactly the same manner as when I arrived. They would continue to do so until after midnight, and again for the rest of the week, only taking a few hours off on Friday. A typical task, such as repairing a trouser zip or shortening a dress only costing between 10 and 20dhs (1.50-2.00GBP).