During Dubai’s petroleum-powered ascent to wealth and geopolitical prominence, Dubai architecture photography has become as iconic as the buildings themselves. Its ever-evolving cityscape means an architecture photographer in the city will never be short of opportunities. The architecture photographers who have built a career in this billionaires’ oasis have enjoyed an unpredictably exciting array of subjects on which to train their lenses, and have demonstrated their ability to capture the balance between the natural beauty of desert light and the often extravagant architectural vernacular.
At Wonderful Machine, architecture photography refers to photography that is primarily concerned with the inside or outside of a structure, more so than the furnishings or decor in or around it. Architecture photography should demonstrate a high degree of technical proficiency including perspective control and the ability to handle mixed lighting. In this article, we feature seven Dubai-based architecture photographers who have established themselves internationally within their field.
Nour El Refai’s photographic dialogue with the desert started on family vacations to the Red Sea at the age of 12 with a Kodak film camera. This intimate relationship with a camera and the desert, coupled with a Bachelor’s in Architecture from Cairo University, make Nour a consummate photographer of Dubai architecture, although his portfolio demonstrates technical proficiency working in diverse environments and locations. Whether he’s documenting architectural monuments, luxury resorts, or opulent estates his work emphasizes clarity, precision, and natural light. He artfully brings attention to the nuances and textures of spaces and frames angles in such a way that we are drawn into the space itself, often accentuating hospitable and inviting characteristics with soft natural light set against the austere beauty of the desert. Nour’s photography reveals both the architectural intent and the contextual significance of the structures he captures. His work has been featured in esteemed publications such as the Financial Times, Architectural Digest, and ArchDaily. Nour also teaches architectural photography at universities and facilitates workshops at cultural institutions.
Oliver Jackson’s architecture photography evokes the city’s vociferous spirit of decadence and luxury. He crafts hyperreal and futuristic images of buildings and spaces with careful postproduction editing. His use of time-lapse photos and artificial light layers spaces to draw out nuances, emphasize the dynamics of architectonic space, and immersing the viewer in the structures he photographs. Oliver works with agencies, magazines, and corporate and industrial clients. Over a 15-year career in Dubai, since moving from South Africa where he earned an Honor’s Degree in Photography and Art Theory, the Harare, Zimbabwe native has established especially close connections with architects. He regularly documents the new constructions that continue to fill in the arid cityscape. His notable contribution to “DXB+9714”, a coffee-table book in collaboration with Alias Publishing, epitomizes his unique visual language.
Jay Yao has the keen eye required to capture the understated elegance of contemporary structures, especially in a city with a tendency to ostentatious displays of wealth. His approach to documenting built spaces leverages sophisticated lighting and postproduction techniques that convey the depth and complexity of today’s monumental designs. Jay’s foundation in art and film imparts a depth to his photographs. Rather than merely presenting a building, he reveals the intricate interplay of light, shadow, and form that enliven these spaces. His command over lighting techniques transforms stoic mega-constructions into canvases of nuanced grandeur that showcase the imposing materiality of these buildings as well as the subtleties of their design ethos. Jay has been recognized internationally by publications like Harper’s Bazaar, which awarded him their Art Prize for his “Reflection” series. Yet his true distinction lies in his meticulous approach to design and his dedication to genuine storytelling where he uses photography as a medium for social dialogue, as in his endeavor with Singapore’s “The Best of You” initiative, where his images established the campaign’s ethos. Whether chronicling the architectural majesty or cultural nuances, Jay’s work is an expression of informed and thoughtful photography.
Alex Jeffries has developed a unique skill set over 15 years of working across the Middle East with global hospitality brands, interior designers, and architects. He utilizes natural and artificial lighting in a way that doesn’t merely illuminate but critically interprets architectural forms. This emphasis on lighting, coupled with sophisticated postproduction techniques, allows Alex to emphasize the nuances of patterns, textures, and materials. Each photograph is an exploration of the building itself that draws viewers into a deeper consideration of architectural intent. Although Alex works internationally in diverse contexts and with brands like Nike, Apple, and Marriott, he maintains a consistent photographic technique that prioritizes clarity and detail. His architecture portfolio evinces a dialogue with architectural spaces that engage viewers with the built environment. With accolades from prestigious institutions like the British Institute of Professional Photography, Alex has established himself as an influencer in the domain of architectural photography.
Antonio Saba’s architectural photography is characterized by a meticulous understanding of space, form, and light. As an architecture photographer in Dubai, he employs expansive wide-angle perspectives that allow viewers to experience the scale and depth of modern constructions. His discerning use of natural and artificial lighting is a narrative device that emphasizes contrasts, textures, and the interplay of shadows. This nuanced technique, further developed in postproduction, showcases the latent dialogue between structures and their surroundings. While Antonio hails from Italy, his choice to base himself in Dubai’s evolving architectural landscape speaks to his ability to document the grandeur of contemporary design. His collaborations with elite establishments like Waldorf Astoria and The Peninsula Hotels demonstrate his ability to render the essence of luxury through his lens. Ahmed’s work has earned its place in prestigious publications like Vogue Italia and Architectural Digest. His images grant viewers a visual as well as a visceral understanding of space and structure.
Ahmad Alnaji’s expertise as an architecture photographer lies not just in capturing structures but in illuminating them. His approach involves the use of high-dynamic range and long-exposures to accentuate architectural subjects. Ahmad’s mastery over complex Photoshop postproduction techniques not only heightens the architectural grandeur but also pushes the imagery toward a visionary interpretation of constructed spaces. Avoiding mere literal representations, Alnaji envisions buildings and spaces as more than static entities. His images are compositions of lines, textures, and interplays of light and shadow that allow materials and patterns to grow in prominence. His distinction in the realm of architectural photography is further underscored by his conceptual grounding. He identifies as an artist who crafts visual dialogues that invite viewers into a nuanced interaction with architectural forms. While his work is technically accomplished, it also displays an innovative approach in a domain where precision often overshadows creativity.
Katarina Premfors’ Dubai architecture photography evokes the sleek futurism of the Emirate’s iconic cityscape. Her images convey an understanding of architectural form and function that accentuates the geometric complexity of modern architectural marvels. A balanced use of natural and artificial light, as well as careful postproduction manipulation, creates images that draw the viewer into contemporary architecture. Her approach to architectural photography is both analytical and critical, a discerning evaluation of modern architectural aesthetics. Born in Sweden, Katarina has earned her reputation in the Middle East over the past three decades. Her works appear in well-respected publications like The New York Times and The Guardian. Her proficiency isn’t just technical but also deeply interpretative, positioning her as a discerning evaluator of architectural forms.
The Dubai architecture photographers highlighted in this article all demonstrate a deep understanding of their craft. Each of them utilizes diverse techniques and tools necessary to evoke Dubai’s vision of a cityscape built for world elites. Their idiosyncratic approaches, informed by diverse backgrounds, are apparent in each frame and make space for both monumental and nuanced architectural forms.
Find more articles related to architecture photography on our blog.