Still Alive by Scarlett Coten


Still Alive by Scarlett Coten is the latest exhibition at The Empty Quarter, opening on 6th April and running till 25th April. This visual diary of her journey through the Sinai desert chronicles her encounters in this harsh land and it’s inhabitants, the Bedouins.

I love how she managed to get access to their personal lives and habitat, uncovering a world of colour, humour and laughter - things you don't necessarily associate with the desert.


I photograph my hosts, those that ask me to, those that pose. These are my guiding line. Gestures and laughter replace the spoken word. Time seems different, the people too. It's a hot summer. From one area of shade to another, we reach for each breath of air, each lift of the breeze. I no longer know which day it is; we live in the present.


Photography is a rarity for them and my camera never leaves them indifferent. A joyful complicity develops. The men joke around in lascivious poses, the women send their veils flying, all embroidered with brightly colored beads. In the village the generator is on several hours every day, and the sheik has a satellite dish, a television set up under the starry sky. Everyone benefits, a naked light-bulb flickering above the screen, we switch channels, to football, live concerts from Arabia, Egyptian melodrama, CNN, there is much laughter. Some have never seen a foreigner, request my presence.


In the face of such novelty, constant surprises, and so much good-will, I enter into the rythm of things, let myself go. I gain the trust of the women who show me their private quarters. In their brightly colored robes, between a heart-shaped clock and a stylized palm-tree on the wall, the Bedouin pose with all the seriousness and attention that this new experience requires. They smoke, raising their veil with one hand. I fall in love with this cheerful and curious people, who consent to pose for me, and do so with delight.

Thus, between reality and fiction, I photograph this inner journey that bears witness to my experience, guided by my inspiration; play and staging bring us together, beyond our different cultures, for a moment of shared happiness. At each meeting, I am greeted with the words: "still alive!"


Exhibition details:
Dates: 6th-25th April
Location: The Empty Quarter, DIFC, Dubai