From simplicity to grandeur: the building of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque

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Back in 2002, Beno Saradzic was commissioned to record the still-incomplete Sheikh Zayed Mosque for a construction company who needed 3-D visualisation to complete the interior.

For several days in July, and again on two further occasions, he had access to the site taking hundreds of photographs.

And then he forgot all about them.

Moving house recently, Saradzic rediscovered the images on CDs and realised he had an architectural and cultural treasure trove.

His brainwave was to revisit the mosque and photograph the now finished building from the same angles. It was, he admits, no easy task, because the interior had changed so much.

Helped by data embedded in the original images, which showed everything from timings to shutter speed and lens information, he was eventually able to produce an entirely new set of photographs.

The most difficult was the aerial shot. Bumping around in a light aircraft, Saradzic says he exactly matched the before and after view: “by pure luck.”

Submitted side by side for this year’s Spaces of Light photo contest organised by the mosque, he went on to win first prize.

Saradzic recalls visiting the building for the first time, before the marble cladding and elaborate chandeliers and inlaid decorations.

“It had a very mysterious feel, like a much older building”, he says. “There was a lot more daylight. Sunshine was casting shadows of the pillars and there were birds flying around.”

Asked which of the two sets of images he prefers, Saradzic says diplomatically: “To be honest, I like both of them.”

More of his work can be found here