I’m writing this at 37,500 feet somewhere over the Mediterranean, en route home after a three day school prospectus shoot in Doha for the International School of London. Flying out on a Sunday afternoon, I always knew this was a job where I would need to hit the ground running. No room to mess up. Everything right first time. Having never worked in the Middle East before also meant coping with a completely different culture. The muezzin’s calls to Adhan echoing from a mosque 50 metres from my hotel window at 4.30am did little to soften the blow of starting shooting at 7am each morning after a 45 minute cab journey !
The school has over 600 pupils and it took most of the first day to find my way around, but once I had it mapped out the shoot itself went very smoothly, helped in no small way by the multi-national faculty who went out of their way to accommodate any requests I had. At the end of each day I returned to my hotel and downloaded all my files to the laptop, before burning backup DVD’s and uploading everything to Drop Box, which Karen then downloaded back at the office the following morning. This workflow guaranteed all my images were safely offline back in the UK before I left.
The richest country in the world, Qatar depends almost entirely upon an expatriate workforce. The majority of Qatari’s do not work. Everything that keeps the country running is dependent upon foreign labour, much of it from sub-Saharan Africa. I got an extraordinary insight into this underclass on my last day, when I travelled with the CAS students who, once a week, as part of their IB programme, take lunch bags donated by families at the school and distribute them to local construction and road workers. Many of these men survive on virtual starvation rations, with often as little as an onion and a few litres of water a day, and the appearance of the school minibus is greeted like a UN convoy in a refugee camp.
For the most part though, an assignment of this nature is a privilege to shoot. Unrestricted access to classes and the freedom to move around the school unhindered has allowed me to capture not just it’s campus and educational facilities, but it’s deeper heart. To work (albeit briefly) amongst a truly international community of young people and educators is an exciting and stimulating experience and I know that when the final prospectus is produced my images will help project that message to prospective parents.
I’ll leave the final words to my client… ”Chris – I’ve had a chance to look at the ISL Qatar photos and, once again, superb. Thank you”