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    PHOTOS: ‘The Bachelors’

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    All photos by Kristin Giordano

    In an effort to shed light on the experiences of low-income expats in Qatar, a husband-wife team has produced a traveling art exhibit called “Skyscrapers and Shadows.”

    The exhibit, which is part of a larger project on the lives and experiences of migrant workers in Qatar, was produced by Andrew Gardner, as associate professor of anthropology at the University of Puget Sound, and photographer Kristen Giordano.

    Both lived in Qatar between 2008 and 2010, and Gardner last year was the lead author of a report called “A portrait of low-income migrants in contemporary Qatar,” which highlighted many of the problems facing this segment of the population.

    The exhibit has been on display around the US and recently left Abu Dhabi’s New York University. It includes photography, explanations about those whose pictures were taken and cultural items found in Doha’s labor accommodations.

    Finding faces

    In an artist statement she shared with Doha News, Giordano explains some of the details of her photography project, titled “The Bachelors.” She writes:

    “To live in Doha was to live with segregation… Even a visit to the grocery store can be an exercise in exclusion as westerners and other wealthy expats walk past the throngs of South Asian workers who are denied entrance to the air-conditioned shopping malls.

    …When I set out to make these photographs, I had hoped to convey something of who these men were as individuals, and to discover that fact for myself.”

    Giordano said she initially encountered difficulty in reaching the men she wanted to photograph. She took a few trips to the Industrial Area, but felt “out of place in that city of men.”

    She then headed to the beach in Al Khor on Friday afternoons, and with the help of translators, began to work on her portraits.

    “I photographed each man alone, against a backdrop of the sea. I wanted a neutral backdrop that removed specificity from their location, illuminating the in-between state that many expats and immigrants experience…

    I collected information from each man on a white index card—their name, country of origin, occupation, marital status, number of children, and monthly income, which was written on the front of the card and held by each man during the portrait session.”

    According to the description of the project, Gardner and Giordano chose their project to give “vision and voice” to Qatar’s oft-unseen labor class. They added that the Gulf is a unique place in terms of migration, for the following reasons:

    • Citizens comprise a small minority in their own country (nine out 10 residents of Qatar are expats);
    • Foreigners are governed by the kafala sponsorship system, which restricts their ability to seek better job opportunities or leave the country without their employer’s permission;
    • Many blue-collar workers are housed in labor camps, apart from the rest of the population;
    • Many expats pay thousands of dollars to recruitment companies for visas to work in the Gulf; and
    • The lives of many low-income workers mainly involve going to work and being transferred back to their accommodations, so they have no interaction with Gulf society or culture.

    Thoughts?

    Shabina S. Khatri
    Shabina S. Khatri is the editor of Doha News. She holds dual bachelor's degrees in Business Administration and Spanish from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University, has previously taught at NU-Q, and worked for the Wall Street Journal and the Detroit Free Press.

    33 COMMENTS

    1. It’s not just the Gulf. We live in a world of segregation. Who do you think made your iPhone and what are their working conditions like? It’s just more in your face here.

        • They are segregated in terms of living and working conditions of the average Chinese citizen, not nationality. In Qatar, they are segregated BECAUSE they have a different nationality.

          • NO they’re segregated here because…what was it that minster was quoted as saying?”… Threaten the safety and hygiene of the population…” So the workers here are NOT segregated because of their living and working conditions? LOL! That’s exactly why they ARE.

    2. Great, sanctamonious holier than thou Americans using low income workers to further their own career.

      As we can see galleries and exhibitons around the world love this stuff, (look at those horrible slave trading Arabs) and I am sure they are making a good living out of the poor and disadvantged, not to mention the boost their career will get. Can we presume they will be giving a portion of their earnings from this project back to their ‘models’?

      • LOL you guys are so predictable.

        I’m just amazed that everyone else in the world is wrong with their views and the injustice they see and are “spreading vicious lies because they’re jealous of the WC, blah blah blah.. ”

        The only truth seekers are those DOING the abusing.

        • That’s not what I said, what I am saying is these people are trading off the human misery of others for their own gain.

          • So journalists who show the plight of the Palestinians are trading off human misery for THEIR own gain? Do they give their salaries to the Palestinians? Just because they expose the plight of the workers here to a wider audience does’t make them capitalist pigs. It’s called journalism. You have the same thoughts on the NUQ students documentary on Qatari schools? They started charging money once an uproar ensued as they saw a chance to make a buck. Or it’s OK because Qataris were involved? And did they give to the build a good school campaign?

      • In reality, articles like this don’t do much to “further one’s career”…it’s for Doha News, not CNN. How much do you think she’s making off this project? Do you think all American reporters make millions of dollars? I doubt she made much of anything. More importantly, you and MANY others on this thread are completely missing the point. What sets Qatar apart from other similar human rights issues is that in Qatar, these conditions and wages are TOTALLY AVOIDABLE! Qatar can afford to take care of these workers and pay them decently, but they don’t because the government knows these people are desperate and will work despite the horrific pay and conditions. This is not a case like many others. There’s a reason the organization, Human Rights Watch published the information in their 2013 World Report. Wake up. This isn’t about “holier than thou Americans”…if it hurts to see the truth in black and white, well too bad.

        • Did you read the article? I thought this would have given it away, ‘The exhibit has been on display around the US…’

          Maybe she is not making much off this project but if it has been on display all over the US then it has certainly raised her profile and increased her earning potential. She could have taken pictures of the ghetto’s in the US or raise awareness of those in America who cannot afford healthcare and die or are ill for life because of it.
          No she picked an easy target and something sensational. Why having them holding up cards with their salary on it? That is tabloid journalism at it’s best.

          • To be fair, the photos are part of a much larger project the team worked on. They’d love to bring it to Qatar, and have taken the exhibit to Abu Dhabi.

            • I’m sure Qatar would love them to bring it here and let them open the exhibit personally and they take them to their own private room for a couple of years….

            • Yeah freedom of the press and of expression is a wonderful thing here that you seem very proud of. Unless of course it’s your voice you want heard I’m sure.

          • That’s why Obama started the Affordable Healthcare Act. In Qatar it’s “we are just horrified that this is happening to workers here in Qatar, we had no idea…blah blah blah… Hey boy get me a glass of water”.

          • So don’t all journalist find a story that is in some way sensational? Make people think? Make people react? Make changes in the world if possible? Don’t all journalist, and people who work in general, try to raise their profile and increase their earning potential? Your points are very cynical. But I’m sure it would be OK with you if it was ghettos in the US (been done), just not anything here right?

            • To expect Journalists to be more noble than the general population is a fallacy. In fact most journalism is done by the lowest of the low and is purely self serving. Yes, self centred journalists abusing their subjects and stories for their own personal gain is about right, be it in Qatar or the US.

            • Seriously “lowest of the low”. If you are Qatari I understand your feelings with the rags put out here and if not Qatari you’ve been here way too long. That’s a really ignorant statement to make. Many journalist put their lives on the line and often lose them to bring you and I the truth of what’s happening in conflict zones and often times outside of conflict all over the world. You obviously have no concept of being a journalist. I’m not even sure how to continue to answer the statement it was so…dumb.

            • Now you make no sense. Although here they probably do. But here they consider them as just creators of society and culture.

            • I would love an example of a “wealth creator of society”. Last time I checked, societies are not created by one wealthy person.

          • Ok 1) “Tabloid journalism” is a contradiction. “Journalism” is reporting what’s actually happening and documented. “Tabloid” is a term that refers to rumors or things that are unconfirmed. Those salaries are TRUTH. There’s no denying that. 2) She’s not raising awareness about the healthcare crisis or life in the American ghetto because we are already aware of the ghetto situation and the healthcare crisis is on the news daily. 3) Darn right she picked something “sensational”! It IS sensational and the bottom line is, not many people are aware of it, so she’s shedding a light on it in hopes to bring about change. Are there other stories of injustice? Sure. But one can only write one story at a time. 4) These stories need to be told and the occupation of journalism came about because people wanted to tell stories like this. Journalism is not charity work (usually, neither is photography for that matter). Is there something wrong with a person doing their job and therefore getting paid for it? I don’t think so. Bottom line: she isn’t becoming rich or famous as a result of this, I can pretty much guarantee it. 5) This is not exploitation. This is raising AWARENESS of an issue that most people don’t know about, including people in the U.S. where the pics were on display. There’s a difference between the two. And finally 6) “Why have them hold up cards with their salary on it?” ??? Really? Here’s why: it’s RIDICULOUS. The salaries are nothing short of criminal. They’re holding up cards because it brings a face to the issue and when that is done, people who see it feel compassion and motivation to do something to bring about change. I find it incredible that you are all worked up over a story that could potentially bring about positive change for what is again, nothing short of criminal activity: bringing in these workers in, essentially trapping them here to work for almost nothing, all while living in horrid conditions. I suppose you’d rather have it kept quiet?

            • I’ll just answer one point as it seems you are a fully paid up member of the hacks society.

              The average wage is India for a worker with no education and little skills is as little as $20 a month and even then India has a huge problem with child slave labour. So if someone offers you 5 times your salary, plus free accommodaiton and no tax that is a pretty good incentive.
              At the other end of the scale some people in Qatar earn huge sums of money and if they stood there with a card with their salary on, some people would come on here and say it is obsence for what they do..
              At the end of the day attacking Qatar on these issues whether they are right or wrong plays into the prejudices of the American general public and these hacks know exactly what they are doing. It is just a another version of grief tourism.

            • To say “it’s better than where they came from” is such a cop out and you know it.

              So who should be held accountable? Let me guess the evil empire of the USA. We all know no one here takes responsibility for anything. Whether it be workers (“oh my god I can’t believe that happening…”), airports delayed, etc it’s always someone else’s fault. Like I said before then anyone who reports on any person, country or others plight in life must be a hack according to you. Remember that next time someone writes a moving piece about the Palestinians and what’s going on there or the Syrian conflict because they’re just lying hacks trying to sensationalize a problem for their own gain of fortune and profile.

              The west doesn’t need help with your so called prejudices. (nice how you single out americans by the way) This region has done enough on it’s own unfortunately.

            • So here’s what I’m getting from you… It’s ok to pay them a ridiculous wage and house them in horrid conditions because over in India they’d make less and also live in squalor. Am I getting that right? Pretty sure I’ve already addressed this, but I’ll say it again: in poor countries, THEY CAN’T AFFORD to pay their workers more and they can’t provide better living conditions. Qatar CAN. It’s criminal because they’re taking advantage of poor workers who want to make more money without providing proper wages and living/working conditions. The death toll alone is astounding. But oh yes… I forgot. In Qatar, if something reflects negatively on the country, we just sweep it under the rug and pretend it’s not true or doesn’t exist. (I could name a few examples, but out of respect, I won’t).

              I think I’ll stop arguing with you since you’re making no new points, let alone logical/intelligent ones. As a “fully paid member of the hacks society” (I would LOVE to know what that is and how much it pays…is the society hiring?), I have a lot to do and should really focus my efforts. If and when you’d like to wake up and breathe in a heavy dose of reality, take a look at the report by Human Rights Watch. http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/qatar

              ***Please not: they are an international organization so I’m truly sorry, but you won’t be able to blame what they say on us evil Americans. The truth hurts. Deal with it.

            • Paying someone three or five times their current salary or no salary at all is not a ridiculous wage, that is just your opinion. (Treating them fairly and humanely while they perform their work is a different matter, that should be a given for anyone in any job. Plus everyone deserves and should expect a safe working environment)
              My comments are not attacks against Americans in general just these people that happen to be American citizens trading on the grief and misery for others for their own personal gain. You get plenty of them in every country and yes they go to Israel as well to make a name for themselves as they know misery sells, not to further the cause of the Palenstinians.

            • Well then Qatar is batting .000 or 0 for 2.

              What about those who just happen to be English, French, Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Saudi, Qatari… Let me guess which one is OK.

              And WHO goes to Israel?

              Now you’re rambling try to find another way to get it wrong.

    3. Incomplete..What is she actually trying to say..Iam not able to understand or another UK press paid person

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