The world from my window

The header of my blog is a detail of the house I used to see through my window when I would write.  It’s a beautiful and very unique villa that is across the street. Dubai loves its subdued tans, browns and beiges.  Colored tile and bright colors are not common, so I loved looking at that quirky and intricately decorated house on sunny afternoons and wonder about the people who live there. (Incidentally, my view is different now. Apparently Dubai can build the tallest skyscraper in the world and shape artificial islands into gigantic palm trees, but can’t connect wireless on both floors of the house we live in. At some point we moved the internet downstairs. So now when I work on the blog, I usually sit on my couch and look through the windows of my living room. My view now reminds me how powerless I am in stopping the never-ending sand from blanketing my patio and outdoor furniture in a seemingly permanent dusty film. I try to focus on the trees and flowers in our yard so I don’t think about how I should get out there and clean.)

I love the idea of taking pictures from windows at home, capturing scenes that might pass unnoticed unless you have a camera in hand.  I also like the idea of photographing a landmark in different types of light or weather.  I have lots of pictures of the mosque I see from my bedroom window.  Here’s one I took recently at dusk.

Dubai mosque

Here’s another from my bedroom window, but I took this super quickly and hopefully stealthily when the window was closed.  I prayed that the film on the outside of our windows that make it difficult to see inside was working really well because I didn’t want to distract the painter. I can’t think of a more dangerous pair of shoes to be wearing while balancing on  a wobbly plank of wood on the absolute highest part of the scaffolding with no safety equipment in sight. It was like watching a circus act from the comfort of my bed!  The other guy is standing on the little planter outside our window. Hope it’s made to support his weight!

photo (6)

This is a picture I took through my kitchen window with my mobile phone. It’s a typical Dubai scene: Something is broken. You call someone to fix it. A crew of 7 men show up, even when the problem is minor.  All but two men then sit around doing nothing.  These are those 5 men with nothing to do, making themselves at home in my backyard, while the other two tended to the problem.

Dubai maintenance men

Every single morning, no matter how hot, how sandy, how humid the weather, this man is washing our neighbor’s cars at 6:30 am sharp.  He’s usually the first thing I see when I take my first bleary-eyed peek out of the window.  I felt a bit like a cheap paparazzo when taking this quick snapshot, but I wanted to capture this scene from my bedroom window to remind me later how certain daily scenes in Dubai that may seem innocuous to a casual observer actually say a lot about the culture here.

DSC_0950-2

I’m certainly not the first to be interested in taking pictures from windows.  In fact, the first known photograph ever taken was through a window (and coincidentally it happens to be kept on the UT campus in Texas now). For more info about this photo, read this interesting post.

first photograph

First photograph, View from the Window at Le Gras, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, ca. 1826 One of the most renowned items in the Ransom Center a the University of Texas

Some of my favorite photographers had entire projects based on photos taken from the window of their home.  Ruth Orkin (of American Girl in Italy fame) dedicated two books of photographs taken from her window. From her website:

Orkin lived in three New York City apartments during her lifetime; Horatio Street, 88th Street, and on Central Park West, and all of these locations appear throughout her work. She first photographed the children in her West Village neighborhood, and later found the vantage point from her 2nd floor window on88th Street interesting. However, it was the view from her Central Park West apartment that she would shoot for the next 30 years. These panoramic photographs of the changing seasons and the skyline became the subject for two books “A World Through My Window” (1978) and “More Pictures From My Window.” (1983) Orkin used to say that she chose the apartment, because the view was the closest thing to the orange groves and mountains of her childhood in Southern California.

Ruth Orkin, Man in Rain, New York City, 1952

Ruth Orkin, Man in Rain, New York City, 1952

Ruth Orkin, White Stoops, New York City, 1952

Ruth Orkin, White Stoops, New York City, 1952

Eugene Smith also took photographs from his New York apartment when compiling photos and sound recordings that became the Jazz Loft Project. From his 4th floor window on 6th Avenue, he snapped pictures at dawn of jazz musicians leaving after a night of playing and truck drivers delivering flowers in the nearby flower district.  When I think of my boring street I get a little envious of all the cool things that were happening outside of his window back in the 60s!

Eugene Smith, White Rose Sign, 1957

Eugene Smith, from The Jazz Loft Project

Eugene Smith, from The Jazz Loft Project

What’s your window to the world look like? I would love to see posts from other people showing your view, where you write or your neighborhood.  I’ll link it here if anyone wants to do it.  🙂

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About Lynda

Longhorns and Camels is a blog about exploring Dubai from the perspective of an expat from Texas. It features stories about living in Dubai including descriptions of local culture and popular activities in the region. It also includes photography of the UAE and other countries abroad. It has been recommended by several well-known guides for expatriates: InterNations, ExpatWoman and Expat Focus.
This entry was posted in Day-to-day living in Dubai and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The world from my window

  1. I love this post, Lynda. Guess I am not the only one then who loves to take photographs from my windows. I find that these photographs have an instant way of transporting me to a specific place and time in my life. A great reminder of things we may easily otherwise forget.

    • Lynda says:

      Thank you so much Jolandi. That is so true – when I go back and look at pictures taken from a window… at old homes or when on vacation … the feeling of being there instantly comes back, sort of like how hearing an old song brings you back in time. Thanks for the comment. (really loved your gate pics by the way!)

  2. safia says:

    Yes, very interesting, a camera lens is after all, a window on the world. Love the New York pics but also yours – the mosque is stunning. One question – is that guy sitting on your child’s table?!

    • Lynda says:

      Great point about the camera being a window to the world – something I didn’t even think to articulate in this piece! thanks so much about the mosque – since I don’t have a tripod – I think it’s the only low light picture I’ve ever taken that has come out – ha ha. Ummmm, yes, that guy is sitting on a little table of ours. I admit – I thought it was a little strange at the time, but maybe I should be flattered they felt so comfortable here? 🙂

  3. Diana says:

    I am with Safia…LOVE the mosque……it is too bad about the loser internet…that upstairs area was the perfect place to work.

  4. Lynda, I love the idea of taking photos from your windows – something I’ve rarely done. I think I’ll give it a try. I wish I’d taken pictures from our Amsterdam apartment window – the guy across the street came out every evening … wearing very little. 🙂 Thanks also for the info on Orkin and Smith. Fascinating. ~Terri

    • Lynda says:

      Oh that’s too funny, Terri! That definitely would have made for some interesting photography. 😉 Yeah, give it a try – you guys have a great eye for detail so I’m sure you’d capture some great images.

  5. Laura says:

    What a cool post Lynda! I loved seeing the vintage photos just as much as the few snaps from your own window — the blue color behind the mosque is AMAZING!

    • Lynda says:

      Aww thanks! Was happy I happened to peak through the window at that moment b/c it was probably one of the last clear nights we had – during the summer the city is blanketed in a nasty sandy haze.

  6. A great post. As you point, so many of the big photographers have photographed from their windows. I really enjoy the photos you have taken from your window, particularly the one of the mosque.

  7. Sally says:

    What a fascinating post. I’ve got hundreds of pictures I take on my morning dog walk – I love the little every day scenes. I’m now looking through my windows in a new way.

  8. HansHB says:

    Love your b&w photos!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wait, that would mean I have to clean my windows….

    • Lynda says:

      Ha! Funny… True! You should see the state of my windows – I have never had the upstairs ones cleaned in my four yeas of living here! With all the sand and dust in the air… they are really dirty. Luckily they don’t have a screen like they do in the states (although that’s a litlte scary with children) so I just open them when taking pics. 🙂

  10. Mitzie Mee says:

    Really cool pictures and nice with a little reminder of all the details down here, which you so easily forget. This is what makes Dubai “Dubai” but after a while, I guess your brain gets numb. Thanks for sharing:)

  11. joanfrankham says:

    Such a great post, I love your photos, and some of the day to day living you describe is very like Africa – washing the cars at 6.30, 4 people sitting around watching others work, etc. My son has just moved back to Dubai and only yesterday they sent a message about their dodgy internet!, I also think the vintage photos are so interesting, I love the stoops, and the lady alighting!

    • Lynda says:

      Interesting that it’s similar to your experience in Africa! I didn’t know you had a son living here – yes, getting internet connected can be a really frustrating experience. Sometimes it takes forever… wishing him luck 😉

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