Clint McLean recently relocated to southern Spain after spending 6 years in Dubai. Before leaving the region Clint began a self-assigned project right next door in Oman. The project looks at isolated Omani communities in Musandam at the edge of the Strait of Hormuz. One of the world’s most important waterways, the strait transports much of the world’s oil. This area of Oman is separated from the rest of the country by mountains and the United Arab Emirates. The nearest neighbor is the Northern-most Emirate of Ras al Khaimah amd some small villages are only accessible by boat. Just a little farther away is Iran, which is just 32 km across the strait at its most narrow point. The Strait of Hormuz is strategically important as this waterway connects the Persian Gulf to the rest of the world but with all the drama surrounding the U.S. and Iran it has become a point of contention.
Musandam is in the shadow of all the chaos around Iran – the starting and stopping of embargos, seizing of ships, threats to block the strait, US warship patrols, etc. – and yet it is not really a player in the drama, just a victim or victor. The people just ebb and flow and carry on as they have done for hundreds of years.
Clint, who tends to alternate photographically between lit portraits for magazines and longer term projects which tend to have a cultural bend to them, considers his Hormus project very much a cultural documentation.
Musandam feels a bit like a frontier town and is a blend of blistering heat, fishermen, goats, dust, smugglers and tourists – the latter two being the fuel of its economy. Add to this its strategically important location and you have what I find a fascinating subject.
My first trips were more like fact-finding missions and trying to make some contacts. Planning often involved things like how to photograph the smugglers up close and personal and figuring out if I could arrange interviews.
The most difficult thing, Clint says, is gaining access—and the blistering sun. Since this is a self-assigned project and he has no backing from a publication, he’s had trouble getting onto a ship in the strait. He even rented a boat and chased a tanker for over two hours trying to catch up, but was never able to match their speed.
Clint plans to return to The Strait of Hormuz to continue this project and fill in a few gaps. Hopefully this time with a faster boat!
To view more of Clint’s work visit clintmclean.com