Sheikh Sultan gestures during the inauguration of Xposure 2019
Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the fourth edition of the International Photography Festival XPOSURE 2019, on Thursday.
Sheikh Sultan toured the indoor exhibitions, taking closer look at the works of guest photographers of this edition.
He also viewed the winning works of the Timothy Allen Photography Scholarship Award (TAPSA), which was launched four years ago to realise his vision to nurture amateur and professional photographers and provide them the opportunity to achieve success in their chosen fields.
Opening addresses by Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council (SMC); and three of this edition’s international guests, Aidan Sullivan, Ami Vitale and Ray Wells, have begged several questions about the crucial role of photography in ‘xposing’ stories that must be told, and the need for events like XPOSURE to continue to bring the global photography community together on one platform to discuss their challenges and opportunities.
The Sunday Times picture editor Ray Wells highlighted the challenges currently being experienced by the journalism and news industries, including declining newspaper circulations, squeezed budgets and fewer commissions. “Every photographer in the room knows this already, often at a high personal cost.”
Highlighting the need for top quality education and training for photographers who want not to just make it big, but survive, in today’s tech-driven industry, he praised Sheikh Sultan for offering a platform like XPOSURE to aspiring talents where they can learn from the photography world’s best.
“Most of the activities here are free, and I am not surprised because it reflects Sharjah’s constant emphasis on offering quality education to future generations”, he said.
“The best is worth pursuing, and in the digital world, worth paying for,” Wells said encouraging young photographers in the audience to keep working hard and follow their dream.
The UAE’s cultural capital has dedicated itself to the exciting world of photography this entire weekend. Organised by Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), the four-day event has tastefully curated 1,112 works by 357 photographers from all seven continentrs under four distinct themes, ‘Xpose Adventure’, Xpose Emotions’, ‘Xpose Art’ and ‘Xpose Life.’
It runs at Expo Centre Sharjah until Sunday 10:00pm, and offers amateurs, professionals and hobbyists in the UAE to hear from 53 leading names in the industry, who have flown into Sharjah with their finest works and awe-inspiring experiences.
In his keynote address at the inaugural ceremony, the Sharjah Media Council Chairman reiterated the need for responsible and ethical photography practices. “Pictures are the most powerful medium in media today. In our digital era, a picture’s impact is stronger and more far-reaching than we can imagine. People require strong proof to believe in something, and pictures do that. This means, what we shoot and share with the world must come from a place of responsibility, knowing what we put out there will shape people’s opinions.
“Art, in any form, has always conveyed messages of beauty, love and cooperation. It should not be anything else. At XPOSURE, we carry the message of nobility, humanity and goodness in our hands, with the ambition to pass it to our future generations,” Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed added.This is Sullivan’s second visit to XPOSURE, after attending its debut edition in 2016. “It’s wonderful to see just how much the festival has grown, not just in terms of physical presence but also in its reputation in our industry. I’d like to thank the Ruler of Sharjah for his continued patronage and support for this event. Given its cultural history and remarkable initiatives, it’s no surprise that Sharjah plays host to this truly international festival and attracts thousands of people from over 135 countries.”
“The photography community consists of extraordinary individuals who are unconditionally dedicated to what they do and why they do it. They are totally compelled to carry on; photography is an insatiable curiosity. And for all the risks these photographers take to document what’s happening around us to keep us informed, a platform like XPOSURE is the biggest tribute to them. Offering them this common ground to connect, share and pass on their skills to future generations will help keep this remarkable craft of visual storytelling alive and well,” he added.
The veteran brings over 45 years of experience in photography. He’s also founded The Ian Parry Scholarship in memory of Ian Parry who lost his life while covering the Romanian Revolution. The scholarship is widely recognised as one of the most important awards for aspiring photojournalists.US-based photographer and filmmaker Amy Vitale brought her journey to over 100 countries on the XPOSURE stage. The audience heard about Amy’s encounter with civil unrest and violence, but she emphasized that the often underrepresented side of these experiences is the enduring power of the human spirit, which among other things, brought back Kenya’s White Rhinos from the edge of extinction.
“Photography and storytelling is powerful. It connects countries and communities, and allows us to remember the things that we share – most importantly our natural ecosystem. On my assignments in Africa I ended up learning how the majority of people on our planet live – gathering water, firewood and food. These people had a reverence and understanding that their lives depended on nature.”
Sifting through her exhaustive documentation of Kenya’s Rhinos, Vitale took a longer pause on the picture ‘The Last Goodbye’ featuring Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino on the planet, moments before he passed away at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in northern Kenya.
She said: “I just hope that this is our wake-up call. Planet earth is our last shared life raft. We have poked many holes in it, but we can still make a difference. It begins with feeling love for what is around. But that’s not enough. We all need to do something, play our part and stop thinking that the world is too big for one individual to affect positive change.
“Imagine a world without our imagination, of beautiful possibilities”, she added. “This is what we are heading towards by slowly losing the essential links in our ecosystem.”
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