On April 2, 2014 by Simon Fleming

A few weeks ago I returned from one of the greatest experiences I have been fortunate enough to have had in my life time. I attended an event known as Gulf Photo Plus 2014 – or more commonly referred to as GPP2014. This event is put together by the organisation Gulf Photo Plus, based in Dubai, and has been steadily gathering momentum to this it’s tenth year. In a nutshell it is a gathering of some of the biggest names in photography from all over the world, covering all genres of photography from high end advertising to landscapes to fashion to street shooting…..  etc etc. They are there as teachers and lecturers in a smorgasbord of workshops and seminars held over nine days. All of these photographers are working full time – most of whom have come directly from assignments to teach at this event, and then will return to their regular work immediately afterwards. The students also hail from all over the globe and are a broad mix of keen amateurs to full time photographers. Here is a link to this years event to give you a better idea of what it was all about GPP2014.

I learnt of this event two years ago when attending a workshop with Joe McNally in Australia. His first assistant at the time, Drew Gurian, planted the seed in my head over a couple of beers one evening to figure out a way to get to a GPP event – he said there is nothing else like it. He was right.

It may seem like a long way to go to attend a few photographic workshops – and from Australia it bloody well is – but more often than not I have found that nothing worthwhile ever has an easy path leading to it. My intention was to absorb as much as I could during my time there, and by dropping myself in to a completely foreign environment I found that I could really focus on my photography. Despite being a world away from home and my day to day life, photography was the one thing that was a constant, and the one thing that I had confidence in, so in that respect my mind was free to soak up as much goodness as I was willing to let in…

This was taken on one of the first mornings after arriving in Dubai just as the sun was beginning to rise. A thick sea mist had enveloped the city and made the place seem even more foreign and mysterious to me.


My time in Dubai was pretty full on, and I had virtually no room to squeeze in being a tourist – but that is not why I came. I landed at 5 in the morning local time, navigated my way through the enormous international airport, got a taxi to my hotel and then had a couple of hours to unpack, shower and then head on over to ‘Photo Friday’ which is the first official day of the event. Man was I running on fumes and completely discombobulated by the events of the last few weeks, let alone the last 24 hours. First thing was to find some strong coffee and try and get my head into gear. On the way to doing this the first familiar face I bumped into was Drew, which considering his influence on me coming here was kind of remarkable. That really made my day and got me into the swing of things. Just when I thought my first 30 minutes at the conference couldn’t get any better than I bump into Joe McNally who has been a huge influence on my photography for a very long time, and who was one of the people that I had specifically made this trek to see. The day just continued on in this fashion to be perfectly honest – it was like going to Hollywood and literally bumping into all of your favourite actors plus a whole bunch more that you wish you knew about. And that in essence is what makes this event so different and so special. It is held on a university campus known as the “Knowledge Village” and between workshops or seminars students, assistants and instructors alike are all mixing and mingling. The hotel which is recommended by the organisers, and just a 10 minute walk from the campus, is also where the majority of students and instructors stay. So every morning at breakfast you have to pinch yourself as to the company you find yourself in… I am still pinching myself.

This was in the main hall of the conference area where a mini trade show of sorts ran throughout the event – taken early before the days proceedings kicked off and so free of traffic.. except for David Hobby aka Strobist and Hala, one of the brains behind GPP. I think David may have been gesturing to me to put the camera away.


This was shot at a one of the ‘mini sessions’ I attended on ‘Photo Friday’ with Gregory Heisler – another photographer for whom I have a lot of admiration. Gregory has shot some of the most iconic images of our time, and it was a real privilege to meet him and sit in on one of his talks.

GPP2014_01Day one in Dubai was a kaleidoscope of experiences and emotions for me – confusion, exhaustion, excitement, curiosity, anticipation, star-struckedness (is that a word?) and just plain awesomeness. As of day two I would be jumping into seven straight days of photographic workshops beginning with Joel Grimes, then Zack Arias and finishing up with Joe McNally. I will post some more detailed insights into what I got up to in those seven days a little later but for now here is a snippet of some of the images I was able to create in that time..

GPP2014_03 GPP2014_04 GPP2014_06 GPP2014_05-2 GPP2014_07


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *