Burri's lens on UAE 1975

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You might know Rene Burri best for his iconic shot of El Revolucionario, when Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's beard is at its most bushy and from his mouth protrudes a long cigar.

But lesser known is Burri's time in the UAE, when he visited the country in the mid-'70s, capturing the very moment when the country's urbanisation was kicking in.

Caravan, United Arab Emirates, 1975, Silver gelatin print, 50x70 inches, ©René Burri / Magnum Photos, Courtesy of ATLAS Gallery

'Caravan' is an image on exhibition at ATLAS Gallery in London until June 9, part of a retrospective of Burri's career. It's a prophetic image, depicting the road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai as it encroaches on the bliss of isolation.

The retrospective at ATLAS is titled Larger Than Life, and presents Burri's black-and-white images at a monumental scale of print, showing off the Swiss snapper's nuance for detail and eye.

The image is shot at an elevation, and we see the sea cast a haze onto the squat houses that front the coastline. Along the out-of-place looking tarmac in this otherwise blissfully idyllic scene, a caravan of camels stroll along while around them are tyre-tracks carved through the sand.

It's a simple if timely image. 

Not only does this old enclave of houses seem to announce itself with dignity amid a windswept and harsh environment, but it also echoes through to today. When we come across a part of the UAE that's yet to feel the full transformative brunt of development, there's traces of this time that have survived. It's a simplicity, yet a harmony with the landscape in terms of shape and form.

For more info on Burri's work and the exhibition, go to www.atlasgallery.com