XPF-David-Learman-Bio-Headshot

David Learman

A farmer’s son born in Yorkshire David Learman grew up in the northeast of England. In 1973, he won a scholarship to study at what is today the University of Cumbria and graduated in 1977 with a BA Hons in Graphic Design and Photography. He was also awarded the coveted ‘Best in Year Prize’ which funded his gap year travelling around Europe with a camera as a companion.

On his return to the UK in ’78 the northeast was in deep recession. Without any prospect of employment, he decided to find work in London. Within a matter of weeks, he was recruited by a west-end fashion agency as a catwalk fashion photographer. After successfully proving his worth, he was given what was a huge budget at the time and told to ‘kit up’.

Armed with the latest photo bling, an editor, a couple of journalists and tickets to the best shows in town, he was dispatched to the fashion capitals of Europe to photograph exquisite women modelling exquisite and sometimes bizarre fashion. Over the pursuing years, he mixed with the great fashion designers, photographers and models of the time. After several years of exhaustive travel and a crazy lifestyle, he put his cameras down in 1983 to set up his own graphic design agency in London.

The Avenue

Over the last thirty-some years, he has focused on running his design business and establishing an international clientele across Europe and the Middle East. In 2002, he relocated his agency from London to Dubai in the UAE where he and his wife Georgina live today. Since arriving in the UAE, David has established a close group of Emiratis friends who introduced him to the traditions, heritage and culture of the UAE. Their insights fascinated him to the extent that in 2015 he was compelled to go full circle and pick up a camera once again.

Currently based in Ras Al Khaimah – the northernmost emirate of the UAE, he spends most of his spare time exploring and photographing fast-disappearing landscapes, traditional Emirati pastimes and cultures that are at risk of being lost to the creep of modernisation and commercialisation.

David is passionate about telling visual stories and capturing scenes in nature and life that invite the viewer to explore and discover subtle nuances and hidden secrets. He enjoys working with available light and in particular in the half-light of dawn and dusk and especially in adverse weather conditions, to capture images that have a painterly quality reminiscent of old masters.

Training Team

He’s often on the road in his not-so-trusty jeep well before dawn, many times to the same locations, to meet the same people but every time a different nature. He has found that nature, in particular, is not a sympathetic partner and demands tenacity and a lot of patience, which he finds both challenging and rewarding. However, he says ‘when nature gets it right, it can be truly dramatic’.

A self-confessed photographic rule breaker, David likes to push the boundaries when it comes to image composition – often finding himself in potentially hazardous situations – especially when camels are involved.

By their nature, his projects are intense long-term studies. For example, his ‘Al Hejin’ collection entailed visiting the Al Sawan camel racing track in Ras Al Khaimah every Friday and Saturday over a period of roughly four years. The first six months of which were dedicated to establishing relationships with humans and camels alike to become familiar to the extent of being invisible to all those around him to capture images that embody the drama and express the unique dynamics of the sport from an inside perspective.

Today, apart from delving deeper into Al Sawan, David is working on two further studies of Emirati culture, both of which are equally as challenging as his exploration of Al Hejin.