Xposure International Photography Festival: Sharjah Deputy Ruler opens festival

Seven-day celebration of photography that features more than 1,600 visual stories


Afkar Ali Ahmed

Published: Thu 10 Feb 2022, 12:08 AM

Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the seven-day festival in the presence of HE Tariq Saeed Allay, Director General of the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), and a number of dignitaries, senior officials and international guests.

Organised by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), the emirate’s grand celebration of the art of photography features more than 1,600 visual stories showcased through 45 solo and group exhibitions, and runs its course until Tuesday, February 15.

The opening ceremony began in spectacular style with a powerful video calling on the audience to step into a world of imagination and showcased a collection of awe-inspiring imagery that reflects the great passion of skilled lens professionals.

In their presentations at the inaugural ceremony, Chris Rainier, a documentary photographer and filmmaker, and Whitney Johnson, Vice President of Visual and Immersive Experiences at National Geographic, also underlined the power of photography and photographers in changing how we see the world.

Following the inaugural ceremony, HH Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, was escorted on a tour of the festival and closely observed the vibrant works of participating photographers.

‘A single photograph can ignite our inner consciousness’

In his opening address, HE Tariq Saeed Allay, Director General of the SGMB, drew attention to the incredible power of photography in helping raise awareness and knowledge of humanitarian causes and drive impactful change in the lives of communities worldwide.

Allay said: “What can we say more on photographs that has not been said before? A photograph is constantly evolving - even when it depicts the same image. Over time, the same image can alter our worldview, change perceptions, stimulate knowledge, and ignite our inner consciousness.”

He added: “These new revelations could unlock the key to making greater commitments to urgent issues around the world. It is a wake-up call to realise that our world’s beauty is not finite; it does not last forever. We must nurture it to keep it alive.”

“This new edition of Xposure International Photography Festival was shaped by the lenses of acclaimed photographers. They are the heroes who have navigated complex challenges – working in conflict hotspots, extreme climatic conditions, and more, to deliver their messages to each one of us,” he concluded.

Photography as a force for good

The opening ceremony of Xposure 2022 commenced by spotlighting a poignant image of Hussein, a 10-year-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon, that depicted him reading a book while taking a break from his daily routine of scavenging for plastic and scrap to support his family. The image, which captured international attention, highlighted the young boy’s thirst for knowledge and passion for reading despite the harsh reality of his circumstances.

The haunting image’s powerful resonance with Xposure’s key messages of the impactful role of photographs to bring about lasting change, led to the announcement of the sponsorship of Hussein’s education until he completes high school.

Xposure announced the sponsorship in collaboration with The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a UAE-based global humanitarian organisation. The gesture is a moving testament to the impact of photography in changing lives and exemplifies Sharjah’s vision in promoting books and education for all, especially those in vulnerable circumstances.

Xposure also honoured architect Rodrigues Mghames at the opening ceremony of the festival in recognition of his role in sharing Hussein’s story with the world.

‘Photography is the tool to preserve our planet’

Highlighting the power of photography to turn the tide against the largest existential threat of the modern world – climate change, Chris Rainier, a documentary photographer and filmmaker, mourned the loss of both the natural environment and the planet’s biodiversity, and drew attention to the often overlooked loss of the vast destruction of traditional knowledge, cultural identity and unique indigenous languages.

“With the destruction of knowledge passed orally from generation to generation, we lose a vast wealth of information -- of climate issues, traditional sustainability practices, a deep understanding of ecosystems and long-term natural farming and survival tactics,” he said.

The National Geographic Society Explorer stressed: “Photography provides crucial evidence to the massive changes happening around the planet. Image after image has shown the impact of man’s actions on earth. Images do not lie; they stir our collective consciousness and can indeed change the world.”

“The mission is urgent; the time is now; and photography is the tool to help preserve our planet,” he concluded.

Images have the power to help humans connect

Describing Xposure as a platform that “helps create greater understanding and appreciation of diversity of human experiences and cultures,” Whitney Johnson, Vice President of Visual and Immersive Experiences at National Geographic, pointed out how the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago has emphatically reaffirmed the power of visuals in understanding the medical, social, and economic upheavals of the current times.

She said: “Now more than ever, I am convinced of the power that visuals hold to help humans communicate and connect especially in disconnected times such as these. Photographs are a window to important changes taking place worldwide. The work of photographers in documenting both universal and individual experiences have driven home the overall human cost, resilience of frontline workers and loss for individual families worldwide.”

Citing the example of an image of a Covid-19 victim wrapped in plastic on a hospital bed in Indonesia, she said: “Data can be hard to comprehend; but images like these are personal and impossible to turn away from.” Viewed by more than one million people in just a few hours, the haunting image forced both the people and the government to address the seriousness of Covid 19, she added.

After the opening ceremony, His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah; was escorted on a tour of the festival, during which he took a close look at the works of participating photographers and listened to the human and aesthetic dimensions of each image.

Visitors can step into the exciting and passionate visual universe of world’s leading photographers through numerous inspirational talks while expert-led educational workshops will elevate the learning experiences of professionals and photography enthusiasts. Xposure 2022 will also broaden the horizons and raise awareness of marine conservation at its first-ever Conservation Summit on February 10.

The international festival's 7-day programming agenda also includes announcement of winners of the Independent Freelance Photojournalist Awards and Xposure International Photography and Film Awards.

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