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International Photography Festival Xposure opens in Sharjah

by Staff Reporter
Xposure International Photography Festival

In the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council, the 8th annual edition of the Xposure International Photography Festival (Xposure 2024) opened on Wednesday with a moving tribute to over 85 journalists and media workers from around the world who have lost their lives trying to offer a glimpse into the lives of besieged Palestinians in a devastating war.

Xposure International Photography Festival (Xposure 2024)

The weeklong festival that runs until March 5 in Expo Centre Sharjah, opened with a poignant short film made by the festival organiser, Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), that reiterated the immense losses the photo journalistic community has suffered in 2023-24 making this phase the deadliest for the media in almost a decade.

The Deputy Ruler of Sharjah echoed the important message in his welcome address as he highlighted to a packed global audience the powerful role of imagemakers in championing pressing global issues by drawing attention to them and initiating positive action.

“If images could speak, they would say, ‘I will amplify the efforts of those striving for positive change. I will showcase injustice to pave the way for love and justice,’” he said.

He stressed: “The world has undergone significant changes since we met last year on the Xposure platform. One example is Gaza, where the tragedy of more than 2 million people who are besieged, starved and (have been) constant targets, has pushed the entire world to reassess previously held beliefs about international values and norms, the human rights system, the role of the individual in making change, and their humanitarian duty towards others.”

“The image has no impact unless it stands by the truth, and that the story it carries is resistant to falsification because it is a product of reality – the reality that photographers and the media community have showed us, risking and even losing their lives to give voice to the voiceless and hope for a better future. Their visual reporting has served as a reliable barometer of truth for the international community and is serving as perhaps one of the strongest tools of influence in global decision-making surrounding the war,” Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi pointed out.

More than just an image

Tariq Saeed Allay, Director General of SGMB, said Xposure is a global celebration that highlights photographers’ mission in protecting collective memory and expanding human understanding of life.

Allay asserted: “As the world witnesses unprecedented events, and images offer a credible window to witnessing and grasping extremely complex situations, Xposure’s role and objectives become more important than ever. What you see on this platform is more than images. They are a platform to listen to the urgent calls of nature against harmful practices, absorb wisdom from cultures far from our own, and gain insights into the human civilisation’s progress and revival.

“In Sharjah, we have created a global platform that brings together the finest photographers to reiterate the significance of photography and its practitioners. We’re also nurturing the talent and knowledge of the next generation of photographers. In today’s world, the demand for photographers who can faithfully reflect life and reality through their lenses is paramount, enabling us to witness beauty, truth, and peace again.”

The opening addresses were followed by keynote presentations from distinguished female photographers.

Nicole Tang, renowned photojournalist who has been documenting the intersection of war, humanitarian crises, natural disasters and human rights in the Middle East and other parts of the world, remarked: “Being here today is a necessary reminder of what images can do to provoke thought. But what does it take for these images to be made? To authentically document is to be as close as possible to the event. That is becoming more and more difficult now.”

Sifting through her decades-long work chronicling the acute challenges, pain, sufferings and deaths of displaced populations and citizens of Iraq, Bangladesh, Ukraine and Gaza, she noted, “these are but a few  examples of the reality of the world we live in today”.

She further said: “These are the stories that ought to make us look at war as more than that. They make us question what our place is in this world – and what we can do as a collective to protect photojournalists and support their vital contributions to the world. More than 90 journalists have been killed in the Israel-Gaza War and currently there are over 300 journalists in prison around the world. Less reporting from the ground means seeing less and less of the truth. Our future hangs in a balance. The challenge is to look closer.”

Nature is our biggest hope

During a deeply informative presentation, award-winning documentary photographer, Beth Wald, who creates compelling visual narratives that explore our relationship with nature, the damage we have done, but also efforts to restore balance to an ailing planet, said: “We are in the midst of dual extinction and climate crises. Today, we only have 25% of our global habitat left. When I was growing up, more than 70% existed. Also, only 4% of the world’s total mammal biomass is wild. The remaining is human beings and livestock.”

“We need to protect what is left, and restore what we have lost,” she emphasised adding that rewilding is the most powerful ecological tool for preserving the ecosystem.

“There are projects worldwide that are working on such initiatives covering millions of hectares of land and forests to create robust nature-based economies run by local communities. Right here in Sharjah there’s the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife that is working to protect and breed desert reptiles, baboons & Arabian leopards.”

“Live in concert with nature, not in dominion over it. For it is nature that is our biggest hope”, was Wald’s closing message, as she underscored the crucial role each individual can play in     working for a wilder, more equitable future.

In an exciting finale, global manufacturer of high-end cameras and lenses, and fine mechanical instruments and other high-tech devices, Leica, launched the Leica Q2 Monochrom “Sharjah,” crafted exclusively to celebrate the emirate’s contributions to supporting and promoting photographers, their craft and the industry, locally and globally.

The 8th edition of Xposure brings together 400 photographers showcasing their distinguished works. The 7-day festival is home to more than 200 events led by 150 of the world’s top photographers, in addition to 90 solo and group exhibitions, more than 45 inspiring talks, more than 27 film screenings, and more than 65 workshops with photography industry experts, alongside more than 50 portfolio review sessions, book signing, and a trade exhibition for 16 of the world’s leading photography equipment brands.


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