Black and white photographs of neglected South East Asian laborers captivated visitors in a small gallery in Dubai recently.
The exhibition, titled “Inside Sajja”, gives insight into the lives and living conditions of laborers in Sajja camp in the emirate of Sharjah.
The abandoned laborers were helped by local social workers after their employers left the country, leaving them behind without their documents, wages or even basic amenities.
Photographer Karen Dias, organizer of the exhibition, approached the men with basic cameras and asked them to document their daily life, a proposal the laborers where initially confused about.
"I taught them a little bit about how to use the cameras; it was very basic stuff. I didn't go into the technicalities of photography because most of them had never used a camera before in their lives, so this was very new for them and it was very exciting for them," Dias said.
Dias said this project was a form of escapism for the men, and added that she was impressed by the images she received from them.
"Their life is very, very mundane, very routine, a lot of them can be very depressed because they don't have work, and making money can be truly difficultm so I think this gave them something to think about, or it gave them a sort of playtime to hang around, be funny in front of the camera, or, you know, get dressed and take a picture," she said.
Saher Shaikh, a social worker, collaborated with Dias on the exhibit, and was one of the few who reached out to the neglected, meeting their basic needs.
The men are embroiled in a legal battle to receive monetary compensation to travel back home.
"These photos will always remind us of what happened here, and when we finally go home, they will be just memories," said Mohammed Fareed.
Proceeds from the prints sold at the exhibition went entirely to the laborers.
Karen Dias – photographer
Mohammed Fareed - laborer