A British photographer is seeking to capture the stories behind some of Oman’s uninhabited dwellings. Hasan al Lawati met her.
As time goes by, more people move from their villages to towns and cities, leaving their homes to be remnants of the past.
But, one British woman is dedicated to documenting Oman’s abandoned abodes in an attempt to keep some memories of the once-full-of-life homes alive.
“Layers of dust have settled on everything but if you stand there still for long enough, you can almost feel them. The ones that once lived and loved, laughed and fought in those places,” says Rachael Maclver, narrating one of her many visits to abandoned homes in Oman.
Her fascination with abandoned places started when she moved to the Sultanate in 2004.
“You see the books they left behind; a hook for holding the pot in place over the stove, the carefully carved door panels. It is all there as though the former inhabitants one day just walked out and forgot to come back.
“Walking around in a village where all the houses are empty and deserted gives the feeling of walking around on a movie set after working hours. It is all there, except for people,” she says.
But Maclver, 54, admits that she sometimes feel like an intruder in these homes.
“That is when it is handy to be able to hide behind a camera lens,” she says, sheepishly.
Maclver has recently published a photo book that features a collection of pictures of Oman.
“Oman really is a smorgasbord when it comes to photo opportunities. I just take photos,” she says.
Most of her pictures are in black and white.
“The black and white photos started as a fluke. I like their pure graphic sensation and I find that too many colours confuse what I am looking at. Sensory overload perhaps,” she says.
But there is a little dash of colour often hidden in her prints.
“It is like a woman wearing her little black dress. She needs just a hint of red lipstick to set it off,” Maclver explains.
But how hard is it to be a photographer in a conservative society?
“I find that Omanis are very private people. And from a photographer’s point of view, it can be difficult to see what is behind the curtain, so to speak.”
However, Maclver told us that she always tries to respect this privacy.
“My photos only show a face if I have the person’s permission to do so, and even then I know it is a privilege.”
When asked about her favourite destination in Oman, she says: “One of my favorite places in Oman is Bilad Sayt.
“Both because I think it is the most picturesque place you can find. The steep drive up to a point where you can’t actually see the road from the car’s dashboard and you feel like you are driving directly into the clouds… and then suddenly there it is, this beautiful village with all the green just below you . Absolutely beautiful.”