Watch: UAE photographer captures lasting memories for families leaving Dubai

Paula Hainey posted a message on Facebook offering her services for free to families hit by the pandemic

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A UAE photographer has offered to capture lasting memories of life in the desert for families preparing to leave Dubai for good.

For the past week, Paula Hainey has been taking family portraits on Black Palace Beach in Al Sufouh, against the backdrop of the iconic Burj Al Arab.

The freelance photographer from Brazil said she wanted to give the “perfect parting gift” to families who were returning home or just moving on following the Covid-19 pandemic.

After posting a message on the Brits in Dubai Facebook page offering her services for free, more than 200 families got in touch.

Many said they were leaving the UAE earlier than planned due to job losses.

"I was trying to think of what I could do to help people out and this seemed like a really good way of sending them home with lasting memories of their time in Dubai," Ms Hainey told The National.

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I was trying to think of what I could do to help people out and this seemed like a really good way of sending them home with lasting memories of their time in Dubai

“Lots of people around the world have been hit by the Covid-19 outbreak and I know people here who have lost their jobs as a result.

“My business has slowed down a lot too, so I wanted to make use of my spare time and do something for others.”

Often taking pride of place in homes around the world, Ms Hainey’s family portraits usually cost Dh1,500 per session, which includes 25 digital images.

This time, however, her expertise is completely free-of-charge.

The mother-of-two, who has lived in the UAE for six years, said she was “inundated with messages” when her post first went live.

Over the past few days, she has been photographing families on the beach between 6.30am and 8.30am. So far she has completed more than 70 shoots.

“Because of the overwhelming response, I plan on continuing the sessions throughout the summer,” she said. “I just hope I can respond to every request.”

Heading back to Scotland in the UK on July 7, the Cairns family were one of the first to have their picture taken.

After 10 years in Dubai, the family-of-five said it was the perfect way to end their time in the Middle East.

“My husband works in construction and was made redundant on June 11,” said Louise Cairns.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Kelly Clarke. News. Dubai photographer Paula Hainey offers to take family portraits for free as a parting gift of their Dubai memories for those who have to leave UAE due to Covid-19. Paula with the Leylamian family. Tuesday, June 16th, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“We actually moved to Dubai in 2007, left again in 2009 due to the recession, and then came back a year later in 2010.

“It’s been a whirlwind week trying to pack up our home and ship things back.

“A family portrait is something we’ve always wanted to do but we just couldn’t afford it under the circumstances.

“It was my daughter who saw Paula’s post, we just thought it was such a sweet gesture to offer her services for free during these difficult times.”

Ms Hainey said she had had a lot of requests from "cabin crew and pilots", as well as those working in marketing and construction.

One of the pilots included Sascha Leylamian, who has worked in the UAE for 10 years. “I was made redundant on June 9,” said the father-of-two from Germany.

“It has been hard. My son and daughter were born here and Dubai was our retirement plan.

“My wife saw Paula’s post and suggested we get some pictures taken.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Kelly Clarke. News. Dubai photographer Paula Hainey offers to take family portraits for free as a parting gift of their Dubai memories for those who have to leave UAE due to Covid-19. Paula with the Dackiw family. Tuesday, June 16th, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“I’m not happy with how things have come to an end but given the tough time we are going through this has been a positive thing to come out of it.

"It is a bitter-sweet ending for us.”

For Adam Dackiw, his wife Ariana and their three-year-old daughter, Martina, the photoshoot was the perfect way to bring an end to their time in the Emirates.

After seven years in the country, they said they were leaving for Barcelona, Spain, within a few weeks.

“I was made redundant at the end of March and my wife had to close her business this week because of the Covid-19 situation,” said Mr Dackiw, a marketing professional.

“It’s been very emotional and we had no intention to leave here so suddenly, but we have no choice.

“When we saw Paula’s post we thought it was such a lovely gesture from her side.

“Now we will always have something to look back on and remember our time here in Dubai.”

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