DUBAI: While many people around the world are cooped up at home as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), some have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Dubai-based photographers, Ales Vyslouzil, from the Czech Republic, and Tara Atkinson, from the UK, have used the situation to help those affected by the global health crisis.
In a large airy studio – called HotCold Studio – in Al-Quoz, Dubai, the longtime friends are providing free photo sessions for people who have been made redundant.
“The idea of the ‘impression session’ came from one small photoshoot,” Vyslouzil, who was an architectural engineer, told Arab News.
He said a neighbor knocked on his door one day and asked him to take pictures of his newborn daughter. The neighbor initially wanted simple phone shots, but Vyslouzil insisted they should go for a professional shoot.
“I spent about an hour with him, and then the next day I was doing retouches of the images and I was like: ‘I think I should most probably do something where I can visually help people who lost their jobs to promote themselves.’”
Vyslouzil, who is also a rock climber, added: “Each of us are our own brand. And your own brand is the first impression, it’s your face. How you look like.”
Atkinson, who has a background in creative and visual art, said: “People do judge a book by its cover unfortunately … And unfortunately, we’ve all got to put our photos on our CVs. You get one step up the ladder if your picture is on the CV.”
Born in the UAE city of Sharjah and brought up in Dubai, she added: “If you are willing to spend money to get a nice picture of yourself, then the employee will say: ‘Wow they’ve actually invested in themselves, which means they care about themselves, which means they will probably do other things like go on a course or learn more soft skills.’”
Vyslouzil and Atkinson aim to give people in Dubai a bit of hope to hold onto as well as something to look forward to.
“Social profiling isn’t great, but we are allowing people to recreate their looks, to recreate how they see themselves, how others see them and to get them out of the house; to get them motivated to send their CVs with their new picture,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson met Vyslouzil seven years ago on a rock-climbing adventure.
Vyslouzil gained a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in structural engineering and moved to Dubai 10 years ago to pursue his engineering career.
“I didn’t really enjoy being in the office and doing tasks and putting together reports. I completely hated it,” he said.
Initially, he thought his dissatisfaction came from the companies he worked for. “But then I slowly realized it was actually me who was completely unfulfilled.”
Photography has been his hobby for the past 15 years but three years ago he blended his passion for architecture and picture-taking to become an architectural photographer specializing in hospitality, commercial spaces, and construction-related work.
Atkinson, however, has always been in the creative field. She went to art college in England and studied videography.
“I started working within art organizations in England. I always really enjoyed connecting people together and motivating them to find creativity within them,” she said, adding that she “itched” to go back and resettle in the place she called home and to get back to the creative industry.
So, she returned to Dubai and worked for a studio photographing weddings and events. “That pushed me to working with high-end fashion brands, and I really started to embrace being a photographer then. There are a lot of stories to be told and a lot of conversations to be heard,” she added.