Photography observed as powerful tool for change - GulfToday

Photography observed as powerful tool for change


Sheikh Abdullah Bin Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi and Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi with dignitaries at the Xposure ceremony.

Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent

Xposure 2021, fifth edition of the International Photography Festival, opened in Sharjah on Wednesday with moving photographs from across the world emphasising that photography can be a tool for change, not just for observation.

The inaugural ceremony was attended by Deputy Ruler of Sharjah Sheikh Abdullah Bin Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi and Chairman of Sharjah Media Council Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi.

The opening ceremony began with a powerful video highlighting the importance of images, and celebrated the great passion of skilled lens professionals who go to greatest lengths and often risk their lives to open our eyes to the realities of the world.

Addressing the gathering, SMC Chairman Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi emphasised the unparalleled struggles of photographers who leave their families behind to face the unknown in search of a moment, which they immortalise through their lenses.

“Through our examination of modern history, we see the instrumental role of photographs in highlighting the needlessness of war and in alleviating people’s suffering. Other images have helped bring wild species back from the brink of extinction, rallied behind environmental causes, and climate change. Xposure is a celebration of every skilled photography professional in the world who wields their cameras to document events, and in the process, the photograph transforms into one. A picture is worth a thousand words and tells an important story… Each story has the power to influence change…” the SMC Chairman added.

Sharing his experience with the audience, Brent Stirton,  South African photographer with an extensive history in the documentary world, looked back on the 10 months he spent last year, during which he chronicled the global illegal meat trade, “Every year an excess of 40 million kilogrammes of wild meat is brought into Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).”

Showing the audience an image of a young hunter in DRC with a sack of 55 - 60 monkeys, another one of bat collectors ferrying their catch on the Congo river, and a few photos he took of people in America who practise hunting as a sport passed down generations, Brent noted: “This is where zoonotic diseases come from… This is why we are wearing masks today. We need to create stricter laws against the sale of illegal wild species for human consumption.”

He also said that funding for wildlife and environmental conservation efforts has been badly affected since the outbreak of COVID-19, saying, “These are the side-effects of the pandemic.”

Renowned world travel photographer and producer Elia Locardi, who has flown 2 million miles around the globe visiting over 65 nations to satiate his curiosity for exploring the unknown — people, places, cultures — made the first public announcement of his brand new project ‘Moments in Time’, a world-wide massive scale show chronicling Elia’s travels in motion.

“Moments in Time amplifies the voices of other people so they can tell their stories as well,” said Elia, adding, “Photography is an element that unites us, that transcends cultures, religion, or beliefs. It has united me with people all around the world. What I would like you all to think about is, photography can be a tool for change, not just for observation.”   

English documentary photographer and writer Giles Duley, who lost both his legs and an arm as he stepped on a landmine while on assignment in Afghanistan in 2011, said that as a photographer, he was always driven by curiosity.

Duley said, “I go to some of the worst places you could imagine, but what do I find there? I find a grandmother feeding her grandson, I find a father on the floor teaching his children math, I see families who stay together no matter what.”

“I realised I was not a war photographer. I document love, I choose to document not war, but love,” he added emphasising that through his career of photographing lives of people living in the harshest conditions, he has learnt to be thankful for what he has and not lose hope over what he doesn’t.

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