The power of environmental art

This is the story of how four inspired photographs transformed Duqm after a divine encounter with a ‘pile of rocks’.
Peter Farrington, a Canadian photographer-cum-painter and a resident of the Sultanate in 2008, narrates about how four photographs transformed an entire port town.

In May 2008, Peter arrived in Oman from Ottawa as the Environmental Advisor to the government to help them plan a brand new industrial port city at Duqm in Al Wusta Governorate.

A month later, Peter had his first encounter with Duqm’s magical Rock Garden. Instantly enchanted, he explored the site taking dozens of photographs.

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However, upon returning to Muscat he learned that the site was to be destroyed.

According to the approved Master Plan this wondrous 3×2 km area of natural sculptures was slated to be converted into a multi-lane highway and massive utility corridor. For Peter, it was clear that the decision makers could not have been aware of the treasure they had in the Rock Garden.

He immediately began to seek a way to protect this site.

However, 9 months of trying proved fruitless.

On March 25, 2009 just days before work on the corridor was to begin, Peter submitted a five-page proposal to the concerned authorities to protect the Rock Garden. Importantly, he included a single page of 4 artistic photographs.
The proposal was signed with the direction that the Rock Garden was not to be disturbed by the development; the Master Plan was to be changed. “It was the photos that made all the difference,” Peter was told later.
The next day, the Master Plan for Duqm was officially redrawn to divert the multi-lane highway and utility corridor from the Rock Garden.

Over the next year Peter became an avid photographer as he continued to both explore the Sultanate and advocate for the Rock Garden and Duqm in general.

The power of environmental photography was now undeniable.

Presently employed in Dubai, Peter is nostalgic about his Muscat days.

From April 20-23, 2011, he along with 30 international and local artists set off to explore Duqm. Titled, ‘Duqm: Portraits of Discovery’, the package saw children from 3 schools given disposable cameras with the mission to show us what Duqm means to them.

On October 29, 2011, ‘Duqm: Portraits of Discovery’ was opened at the prestigious Bait Muzna Gallery.

Accompanied by under-secretaries from several ministries, the Minister of Environment, as guest of honour spent the evening touring the exhibition.

The photos by the school children were a highlight. And in a rare move, the Gallery added 10 days to the exhibition at no charge.

On October 29, 2011, ‘Duqm: Portraits of Discovery’ was opened at the prestigious Bait Muzna Gallery.