Kuwait is a ‘60s town-planner’s dream; looping expressways cossetting scrupulously laid out suburban blocks, as far as the eye can see. Successive city-plans have bequeathed commercial districts thronged with glinting jade towers, tidy city parks, carefully located retail zones, and neatly-planned residential neighbourhoods.
But through this ordered world snakes an internal periphery, a central edgeland where haphazard meanings emerge.
Making my way through the cityscape, I was confronted by a riot of symbols – plasterboard mansions, ladders to nowhere, empty shrouds, mirrors enough for a thousand princes.
There were moments when the the city became curiously insubstantial, dissolving into its dream of itself. The nagging sense of Kuwait’s precariousness, usually suppressed, asserted itself in instances of the surreal.
I kept walking, and kept looking for the cracks in the city’s poker face; for the informal constructions and interventions which put a revealing twist on urban spaces; and for the ways the typical tropes of urban design and officially-sanctioned expressions ended up subverting themselves.
Keith Shuaib was born in Kuwait, and raised between there and the south-west of England. He now lives in London. He completed studies at the Neue Schule für Fotografie in Berlin in 2018, having taken a sideways step from his career at a film heritage institution. His interest lies in the ways we shape our environment to tell ourselves stories about our lives and our values, about what we fear and what we believe makes us happy.
His work was exhibited at Rotterdam Photo 2019, as part of the group show ‘Staged, Constructed, Real’ held at the Neue Schule für Fotografie in Berlin in 2019, and in the PYLOT Magazine Open Call exhibition in London in 2018. He has also been featured in the GUP Magazine publication Fresh Eyes, a book bringing together the work of 100 emerging photographers from across Europe.