This Dubai-based photographer captures the city like you’ve never seen it before


(CNN) – With their cornflower blues, candy floss pinks and pumpkin oranges, photographer Preet Uday’s images of Dubai evoke bittersweet nostalgia.

Most photographers prefer to show the luxury and sheer scale that Dubai is known for today, from colossal skyscrapers to vast sand dunes and sweeping coastlines, but Uday’s fans say his quirky images remind them of a gentler era.

According to Uday, he has come in contact with people from all over the world who share the same sentiment. “They say that the images take them to another time,” he says. “It gives them a sense of warmth — happiness. It reminds them of their childhood, and that’s a global feeling, not just in Dubai.”

A different Dubai

In contrast to the futuristic steel and glass that make up the city, Uday captures quiet and modest moments. It was not intended to show another side of the city, it happened organically. Originally from Secunderabad in south-central India, Uday, 46, moved to Dubai in the early 2000s. “I grew up in the ’90s, so subconsciously I’m influenced by that era,” he says.

Uday says he likes to make his work abstract in location, showing just a small part of a larger scene — something that encapsulates a universal emotion or longing, while maintaining geographic intangibility. “There is a surrealism to it, it feels like another place,” he says.

His images convey a strange sense of otherness, of another place or time. Maybe that’s the source of the nostalgia they seem to evoke, or maybe it’s all the classic cars he photographs. Uday says that while he wouldn’t consider himself a fan of classic cars, he loves their design and aesthetics, and usually finds at least one vintage-looking car whenever he goes out on a shoot in the city.

Uday has a penchant for classic cars, which he finds hidden around the city among the shiny supercars.

Preet Uday

Softer focus

Officially a portrait photographer, Uday says these landscape shots are a new passion that began to develop in the quiet of the pandemic lockdown restrictions.

“During Covid, everything was closed and I couldn’t enter the business,” he says. “I had a lot of free time, so I started walking the streets, taking pictures and posting them online. For some reason, these images caught my attention.”

Over the past two years, Uday’s images have gained a healthy following on social media, and his popularity continues to grow.

“The first thing that attracts me is the color,” says Uday. “Color palettes, minimalism and a certain simplicity within a scene.”

Although his pictures look like they are shot on film, all of Uday’s pictures are taken on a digital camera. “Nowadays I’m also starting to create with the iPhone,” he says.

Preet Uday's photographs show the city of Dubai in a new light.

Preet Uday’s photographs show the city of Dubai in a new light.

@visualsbypreet

Before Uday shoots a particular neighborhood, he walks around it and gets a feel for its character. He says this slow approach allows for more candid and intimate images. “It means you get to see more specific details of that particular area and how people live,” says Uday. “You get to know the unique color palette of that particular area.”

Although he only started working in this style in 2020, Uday has already exhibited in several galleries in Dubai and is considering publishing a photo book. “I could literally do two or three books,” he laughs. “That’s the volume of photos I have.”

“But I know I’ve only scratched the surface of this genre,” says Uday. “I have a lot more color palettes and images waiting to be created in my head.”