Brooke Holm on Photographing Sean Connolly in the Dubai Opera

Brooke Holm on Photographing Sean Connolly in the Dubai Opera

Way back at the beginning of APALMANAC’s conception, Brooke Holm was the very first interviewee on the site. It is easy to see why. Her photographs are delicate and beautiful, full of form and line and sweeping dreamy light. It’s a no-brainer that Brooke’s photos of Sean Connolly in the Dubai Opera should be on Project of the Week.

Brooke tells what it was like being at Sean Connolly, sharing “The restaurant is inside the Dubai Opera House, so the interior really collaborates with the bones of the external structure. The architects of the interior of Sean Conolly were Australian-based collaborators Alexander & Co and Tribe Studio.

Almost the whole front of the restaurant is windows facing the water and at the back, there’s a cutout view of the Burj Khalifa. I loved the scalloped ceiling and the oyster bars – all that curvature is delicious. The interior featured many Australian designers so for that reason it felt like home. Also, the food was excellent.”

Brook recounts the insane shoot schedule saying, “The shoot was one of the more unique shooting situations I have been in, really crazy and really fun. We had a window between 1am and 9:30am to shoot in (yes you read that right). So I flew in on a red-eye from New York, arrived for a quick walkthrough in the afternoon before the shoot, passed out at my hotel for a few hours and then made my way to the Opera House in the middle of the night.”

“The architects and I had long talks prior to the shoot about the difficulties of shooting at night, and the completely different aesthetic between night and day” she explains. “So we shot the whole space in the dark, and then once we finished, I reshot the whole space at the speed of light from sunrise to 9:30am – trying to capture whatever I could in those precious couple of hours.

I have never been more delirious or jet-lagged and I was running on the mercy of a barista who made us coffee all night. I also didn’t have an assistant but the architects ran around while I barked styling requests at them from across the room. It was pure joy and terror. At the end of the day, we chose a lot of the daylight images and a couple moody bathroom shots. I think it turned out really beautifully and everyone was happy. Then on my flight home, the airline gave me a free upgrade to business class, first time ever, and I wish I could have stayed awake to enjoy it. Those days feel far away now.

If she was hurting, it’s hard to tell. Brooke’s photographs of Sean Connolly are bursting with color and texture, perfectly framed in thoughtful compositions that show us the different areas of the restaurant while still leaving us wondering what is just out of view.

The vignettes and details she includes sport the same gorgeous directional light and amalgam of textures and materials.

“When I shoot interiors I am as basic as possible,” Brooke shares. “I have a sturdy tripod, a full-frame DSLR and three lenses, 14-24mm, 35mm and 50mm. I tether to my tiny MacBook pro laptop. [I bring] no extra gear or lighting…nothing.”

“My interior shoots are 50% shooting and 50% retouching. Whatever is an issue on the day, I rely on my photoshop wizardry to fix later. Although I am all about the details, I know where to compromise and where I can’t, so all throughout the shoot I’m thinking about what I need to do now or what I need to do later.

When you’re on such a quick time crunch like this one, there is no time to waste. Though it’s not always this hectic and I will spend a lot more time with a stylist and an assistant perfecting everything in most situations. This was more unique.”

As we move outside into Sean Connolly’s courtyard we are met with the same familiar elements, like the strong repeating lines and broad sweeping curves from the interior. Brooke sets up this one-point perspective that shows us the grand scale of the outdoor dining area and enhances the shapes in the frame.

She chunks down the scene into a delightful detail shot that allows us to take note of the mosaic tiles and delicate color scheme present.

We’ll end this Project of the Week with this epic scene of the iconic Burj Khalifa reaching up over Sean Connolly, perfectly placed by Brooke in the winding cutout created by the restaurant’s roofline.

Many thanks to Brooke Holm for sharing her experience and her photographs with us here at APA!

See more of Brooke’s work (including her gorgeous personal projects and fine art series) on her site, as well as on Instagram @brookeholm

If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.

Howdy! I'm Lexi. I write and make photographs. I love being outside and listening to '00s indie rock.
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