Founding Fathers

By Etihad Museum

The ‘Founding Fathers’ exhibition held at Etihad Museum, (March 2019 – January 2020), chronicled the Founding Fathers’ journey into the union of the seven emirates, as seen through the lens of ace photographer Ramesh Shukla.

Founding Fathers - Portraits of the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al MaktoumEtihad Museum

This exhibition showcases iconic photographs by Ramesh Shukla, the man who documented the history of the United Arab Emirates for more than 50 years,

and captured cherished moments and memories of the nation’s Founding Fathers.

Shukla was present when, in 1971, rulers of seven emirates came together and signed the 'Union Agreement', forming the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Founding Fathers - Portraits of the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al MaktoumEtihad Museum

On that day, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, was elected as the new country's President,

Founding Fathers - Portraits of the Founding FathersEtihad Museum

with the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, as Vice President.

Founding Fathers - Rolleicord CameraEtihad Museum

In 1965 Shukla first set foot in Dubai after a five-day boat journey from Mumbai. He was on an assignment from a local Indian newspaper to capture the life of the people in Dubai, and came armed with several rolls of film and a Rolleicord camera (like the one on display) gifted to him by his father, and not much else.

Founding Fathers - Portraits of the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al MaktoumEtihad Museum

Coincidentally, this was a significant time in the UAE's history, as the region was experiencing monumental transformations due to the discovery of oil a decade earlier.The British government, which had its presence in the emirates for decades, had declared its intent to withdraw by 1971.

Founding Fathers - Asahi Pentax CameraEtihad Museum

Founding Fathers - Portraits of the Founding FathersEtihad Museum

The rulers of the seven emirates came together and signed the 'Union Agreement' forming the United Arab Emirates, at the Union House , situated at the same site as the Etihad Museum.

Founding Fathers - Ramesh Oral History VideoEtihad Museum

Ramesh Shukla was, in his words, 'at the right place at the right time' to capture the formative years of a new country.

Founding Fathers - Cameras and EquipmentsEtihad Museum

He would set out at 5 am everyday clutching his camera bag and tripod, trying to capture the life of the people in the streets.

Founding Fathers - Photography Equipment and AccessoriesEtihad Museum

Over the years, Shukla honed his art and photography skills to become one of the most renowned photographers in the region.

Founding Fathers - Ramesh Shukla's StudioEtihad Museum

As his portfolio developed, he was able to expand his business, rent a space for his studio and import equipment from the UK and Germany.

Founding Fathers - DarkroomEtihad Museum

Ramesh Shukla’s one-room house doubled as his studio during the late 1960s and 1970s.

His makeshift darkroom consisted of the basics – an enlarger, developing trays and a red light, which are all on view.

Founding Fathers - DarkroomEtihad Museum

He had the habit of shooting all day long, and returning home with numerous rolls of film.

Founding Fathers - DarkroomEtihad Museum

With the help of his wife, Taru, he developed most of the photographs daily.

Founding Fathers - Photographs from Ramesh Shukla's CollectionEtihad Museum

Gradually, Shukla grew as a photographer with the appreciation and support from the UAE’s leaders.

In a career spanning over fifty years, Ramesh Shukla has photographed everything from everyday life in the emirates,

to the UAE's visionary leaders.

Founding Fathers - Interactive InstallationEtihad Museum

Telling a striking narrative of a nation as it transformed to one of the most advanced countries in the world today.

In this exhibition, the collection of photographs on display explore not only these iconic moments, but also Ramesh Shukla’s life as a photographer in the UAE and his love of the art of photography.

Founding Fathers - Ramesh Shukla's Book 'The United Arab Emirates: Founding Fathers - Zayed and Rashid'Etihad Museum

The evolution of photography is fascinating; we use today’s technology to scan photographs to reproduce and preserve them. In Shukla’s case, preserving them inside a book that would be read by thousands of people.

Ramesh Shukla's book 'The United Arab Emirates: Founding Fathers - Zayed and Rashid' was launched in 2019 with this exhibition at the Etihad Museum.

Founding Fathers - Signing of the Declaration of the Union and Ramesh Shukla's QuoteEtihad Museum

Founding FathersEtihad Museum

Watch this video of Ramesh's inspirational journey and learn about his historic, personal and professional milestones, in conversation with his son Neel Shukla.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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