The Magical Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; a kingdom shrouded in mystery, a secret from the outside world. As a kid I lived in Saudi, near Damman on the East Coast. From what I can recollect as a nine year old, we existed in a bubble where living in a compound, being chauffeur driven to school and spending hours splashing in the pool whilst the grown ups tended to their illegally brewed wine was the norm. Life was great!
Years later, during my days as a corporate employee, trips to Saudi featured regularly so recently, it was a pleasure to return, this time wearing a different hat. The purpose of my visit was an assignment from branding agency, S+G. I was to travel with Art Director, Rhode to shoot am image library for a power & desalination plant in Jeddah.
Beautiful artistic shots of an industrial site? A challenge of gigantic proportions for which I justifiably had concerns; the harsh reality of arriving on site can be a stark contrast to the images conjured on a moodboard. Dust covered concrete slabs generate little colour but thankfully, my expectations were realistic thanks to our local fixer, Abullah, making reference to the ‘very ugly site’ on collecting us at the airport!
Fast forward and a shooting plan was fast put together. The place indeed had potential and what followed were several very long days; 3am departures from the hotel to begin shooting at sunrise ended 14 hours later with some rest and respite before repeating the following day. When the light and weather are working, you take advantage. Sleep can wait.
The building of these plants is fascinating. I’m not an engineer nor do I have the desire to understand how it all works but I do value the brainpower that goes into building such complex spaghetti of pipes, wires, workflow and metal.
Abdullah proved to be a fantastic asset, sorting out permits, arranging models and clothing and driving us around safely. Every morning at 3am he was waiting downstairs. Thank you Abdullah! Indeed the shoot, as a whole, was a dream, very enjoyable and made all the more rewarding when the client was happy with the results. One, I hope, to be repeated.