Freeze frame: Capturing the UAE’s Olympic hopes

A photography exhibition portraying the UAE’s Olympic athletes’ hopes and dreams will be on display in Abu Dhabi this month. finds out the motivations behind British artist Gabriella Sancisi’s latest project

London-based artist Gabriella Sancisi’s latest photography exhibition, entitled Olympians, will go on display this week in Abu Dhabi.

The exhibition is a series of 24 portraits of UAE Olympic and Paralympic athletes taken by the artist during a visit to the emirates in 2011. Although the portraits were captured at different locations and at varying times, Sancisi sought to record a likeness between the individual subjects.

“I have chosen those images which touched me the most and which I feel work best collectively. I know exactly what it is that I am looking for in a likeness and this is generally a moment of self-consciousness or connection when the relationship between the athlete, me and an eventual viewer of the portrait seem to collide.”

Olympians grew from an earlier project that began with the announcement of London as the 2012 Olympic Games host, when Sancisi took the opportunity to reflect the sense of optimism in the UK. She began photographing professional athletes as well as young people involved in sports in schools in the Olympic Boroughs. Some of these pieces were displayed in a Shared Dreams exhibition in Cuenca, Spain in 2010, and again in 2011 at the Hay Segovia Festival.

The ‘athletes’ project continues to evolve and now includes young Argentinean footballers, both men and women; Thai kick boxers; Japanese sumo wrestlers and women wrestlers.

'Olympians' is staged by the British Council in collaboration with the National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee and will be on display from 26 March to 29 April 2012 at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).