Alex Jeffries, a British professional photographer, moved to the United Arab Emirates in 1996. With a background in advertising and design along with over twenty years of experience, Jeffries creates powerful images for various brands. He fell in love with Al Ain seeing as he spent quite some time in it. Consequently, he authored a book titled Doors of Al Ain which portrays his love for the city and which in his words, "explores the hidden gems and corners of the city, with enticing images showing glimpses of everyday life and at times, a glimpse of mystery."
Khaleejesque interviewed Jeffries and took a closer look at his work and what's behind his passion for Al Ain.
Tell us about yourself…
I am British-born – a professional photographer who moved to the Emirates in 1996, with over twenty years experience in the creative industries, working for a range of global and regional brands. I am now greatly respected within the photographic and design communities of Dubai and as I spent more and more time in Al Ain, in the previous years I fell in love with its calm and elegant beauty. Doors of Al Ain is the result of the passion and fondness that I feel for the city.
What inspired you to create this book?
As I drove around the city, I realized, if you looked beyond the dusty palm tree, or down a small road, or around a corner, you begin to see these beautiful doors everywhere, untouched from the passing years. Soon they may be gone, right now, they are still here, I felt the need to capture them. Little is written of this beautiful Emirate, I wanted to show some of its beauty to the world.
What inspired this passion for Al Ain?
I fell in love with its calm and gentle nature; these days living in Dubai is more like New York or London. Recently given UNESCO status, Al Ain is the perfect respite; the greenest of all the Emirates. Its a change from the intense summer heat and the original and much-loved home of the beloved Sheikh Zayed – grandfather of the nation. It has a calmer, more peaceful tone, where you will stop and chat with the dry cleaner and wave as you drive by the manaesh (za'atar pastry) seller.
Can you share with us your favorite picture from the book?
I struggle to choose a favourite, I like the colourful ones. I like the summer images, where the doors are just dripping in sunlight. I like the ones where a bicycle sits outside, or a palm tree heavy with dates reaching for the floor. Or an image where you can see a door through a door, a glimpse of life behind the door.
Is painting the doors of the house a tradition in Al Ain?
In this region, doors are a form of art and decorative expression, as well as being functional. This book celebrates them all: old, new, ornate, carved, hidden within an oasis: all sorts of doors are here.
What is the purpose of this book?
I wanted to capture a slice of history before it's gone, soon all these doors may be gone, as you see Abu Dhabi and Dubai change so fast. Although Al Ain is a sleepier Emirate, less fast paced than its neighbors, one day will come when these beautiful doors are no longer around for us to see. The book will have a short history of Al Ain in too.
Any upcoming projects?
I have a couple of similar exciting projects that are underway at the moment, I'd rather not say what they are just yet.
– Fajer Al-Farsi
Images courtesy of Alex Jeffries