Australian photographer Heath Holden moved to Doha, Qatar as the official documenter for the preparation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Discovering his new home through the lens of street photography, Heath explored the older and more traditional neighborhoods of the historical city. Spotting heavy construction everywhere, he sensed it would only be a matter of time until the small shopfronts and little alleyways of the old Doha would be no more.
How did you end up living in Doha?
This chapter was quietly brewing for some time – I had reached a point in Tasmania where I needed fresh surroundings to explore my work direction and motivation a little deeper. One Saturday morning a friend sent me a link with a job opening in Qatar. I didn’t know a lot about it so I looked it up for a few hours and sent an email out of curiosity. Within the month, I had finalized everything and moved there. The position was (and currently still is) to document 2022 FIFA World Cup preparation and surrounding processes.
Tell us the story behind your series, “Disappearing Doha”.
The Disappearing Doha series developed out of regular street photography exploration which took me into the older and more traditional neighborhoods of Doha. The whole city is under heavy construction and I sensed it would only be a matter of time before these places are gone. As I wandered these areas into the night, I noticed the atmosphere change as the twilight and artificial lights merged. This was exactly what I needed to add a little more flavour to the series than a regular street feeling. It is really enjoyable shooting during the twilight/blue hour period when the shop fronts and little alleyways come to life. Long story short, this is my story of the old Doha and its residents who call these endangered neighborhoods home.
Why do you shoot with the X1D II 50C?
I had admired the X1D II from a distance for some time, and when I began to think about this series and the visual style, I became more curious about medium format and how it would be advantageous for this low light work. The size appeals to me – I have been using smaller mirrorless and rangefinder cameras for the past couple of years and it has made it very clear to me that carrying DSLR’s and their oversized lenses is a nuisance and discourages me a lot. The X1D II seemed like it would suit my work well.
How was the X1D II beneficial in shooting this series?
A lot of the work was shot at twilight and into the late evening with intense variations in artificial light, so the low light performance and colour accuracy was imperative to documenting these scenes. The minimalist design is something worth mentioning also; when I am working, I care for nothing but shutter speed, aperture and ISO, so with the X1D II, I find myself fully present and not distracted by excessive buttons and dials.
How was using the XCD 45P for this series?
The XCD 45P having an “equivalent” focal length of 35mm appealed to me. I have been shooting with 28mm and 35mm a lot over the past few years and I knew it would be a versatile lens for photographing both city scenes and people in their environment. The lens is small and its leaf shutter is very quiet and does not cause any unnatural reactions. Auto focus is good, but I prefer the manual focus ring which is nice and has a tactile quality. Additionally, flash is something I love to use for certain work so the 45P’s leaf shutter and its 1/2000th flash sync capabilities is something which will be exciting to work with in a future series.
How did subjects react to being photographed?
The conversations vary from subject to subject and at times some translation is needed to really communicate. People are interested in the gear, the process and why I am photographing in the areas. A common question here is “How much [is the camera]?” Everyone wants to know how much things are. Showing the shots on the screen always brings a good smile and if they have a phone, I will send them a copy.
How did you find the final files of the X1D II 50C?
The X1D II files are stunning. The natural colour solution produces very accurate tones with lifelike saturation and vibrancy and the colours are not all pumped up like a circus scene. I’m not a big post processor but the 16-bit depth and 14 stop dynamic range of the files honestly helped me with this series for sure, allowing me to work with levels, curves and some selective brush work to bring out shadow detail in the low light scenes and also to tame any crazy bright lights without degradation. The high ISO performance is beautiful and produces a classic looking grain rather than digital noise.
ABOUT HEATH HOLDEN
Kicking off his photographic career at the local newspaper in northwest Tasmania in 2007, Heath Holden’s experience in the editorial environment gave him a wealth of knowledge in photographing people with a story-based approach. Later in 2008, he jumped to being the staff photographer at the Singapore Zoo, photographing a variety of assignments for internal departments, including advertising, educational, and archival work, plus documenting any significant zoological procedures. Moving into a long-term natural history project to document the Tasmanian devil for the next 6 years, Heath simultaneously freelanced within the conservation, editorial and commercial market for Getty Images and numerous other organisations within Australia. Currently, he is working in Doha documenting preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. See more of his work here.
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