Category Archives: 07. Marc Riboud

Marc Riboud, Between East and West

Between East and West,

An exhibition by Marc Ribou

  The Empty Quarter,

Dubai International Financial Center,

DIFC Gate Village,

Building 2,


 A few weeks ago I had attended an exhibition by award-winning photographer, Marc Riboud at The Empty Quarter gallery in Dubai. The exhibition displayed 27 of his finest photographs spanning six decades of Riboud’s career. Riboud work history includes being one of the first European photographers to venture into China, documenting the African independence movements and also went to Vietnam (North and South), photographing in North and South Vietnam showing the suffering of the Vietnamese people.

The exhibition begins with a quote from Riboud, which states ‘Rather than a profession photography has always been a passion for me, a passion closer to an obsession’.

I adopted my familiar strategy of moving through the gallery viewing the 27 black and white photographs, before returning to the few photographs which interested me most to make more detailed notes and sketches.

I found the image ‘Beijing China’, (1965), to be quite fascinating. The photograph shows a street scene viewed from inside a train carriage. The black window and door frames provide 6 frames that break the whole scene into 6 smaller sub-sections. I find that the overall effect gives each small frame it’s own individual narrative. Individual, although still part of the whole. I wonder if Riboud waited for a long period of time for this type of framing to align or if it was more fortuitous? The street scene shows a mix of community, conversation and curiosity, shown by the stares of the young children at either side of the frame.

Having recently worked my way through the exercises in Elements of Design, I found ‘Shanghai, China’, (2002) to be attractive as I was strongly aware of the diagonal and curved lines dominant in the frame drawing the eye along the road.  I also noted that the diagonal lines converge into an implied triangle. The curved/diagonal/triangular aspects to this image add dynamism, to an already exciting scene, as does the slight camera tilt. There wasn’t any photograph description other than ‘Shanghai, China’, (2002) to tell me why the streets were full of people on that particular night. A celebration or national holiday perhaps? I find the question intriguing and also wonder if Riboud has chosen this high view-point as in order to capture the scene showing all the figures as tiny elements of the whole scene or was it opportunity that suddenly presented itself from a hotel room window?

Again, information from Elements of Design sprung to mind as I noted the implied triangle denoted by the men’s position and their various eye-lines in ‘Fez, Morocco (1978)’.

My curiosity was also sparked a I began to wonder if I was looking as shopkeepers, neighbours or a group of friends.

My overall experience of the exhibition was excellent. I felt that each image held hidden narratives and that each had given me a glimpse of places I have yet to visit. I wonder how the places in the photographs have been changed by the passage of time since they were shot. Would they be recognisable, or as I suspect, the photographs reflect a time and place that cannot be recaptured.

Further details on the Empty Quarter Gallery can be found at

Marc Riboud’s portfolio of work can be viewed at