Sharjah’s Xposure International Photography Festival is set to return this week, bringing together works by emerging and established photographers that capture a wide variety of topics including big cats, supercars, social issues and fashion trends, as well as manmade and natural wonders.
Now in its seventh year, the annual festival begins on Thursday at the Expo Centre Sharjah and runs until February 15. It will feature 68 solo and group exhibitions as well as talks, workshops, portfolio reviews and an awards ceremony. The main focus this year is a conservation summit that will highlight the effects of climate change, as well as ways to improve the planet’s health.
“At Xposure, we have an enduring belief in the power of photography to impact the lives of people and the world around us,” said Tariq Saeed Allay, Director General of Sharjah Government Media Bureau, the festival’s governing body.
“As a platform for celebrated photographers to introduce their perspectives of life through their lenses, we highlight the power and role of photography in forging connections and expanding perspectives. Xposure is more than galleries and exhibitions; it’s a festival of education and inspiration, an event that truly celebrates creativity and visual storytelling, and an unforgettable experience for all walks of life.”
Here are seven photographers to keep on your radar.
Abir Abdullah is a Bangladeshi documentary photographer whose work has been published in global publications, including The New York Times, Time and the New Internationalist magazine.
His photographs capture the poignant effects of environmental and social unrest. His Climate Migrants series shows the impact climate change has on people around the world. In Deadly Cost of Cheap Clothing, he pulls the veil back on the dangers of the textile manufacturing industry in Bangladesh.
Bara Prasilova’s works are replete with humour and playfulness. The photographer, who lives in Prague, often leaps into the surreal with her images. They show babies swinging from stretched legs, fish caught in flippers and flamingos with foldable fans for tails.
“I tend to believe in the unbelievable, which is why I have access to the places in my mind where boundaries don’t exist,” she says in her artist statement on the Xposure website. “A combination of the unconscious and the way my brain processes it.”
Prasilova has collaborated with institutions including the National Theatre in Prague and Newsweek magazine. Her work has also appeared in advertising campaigns for Ikea and Quiksilver.
Alia Sultan Aljoker
Emirati artist Alia Sultan Aljoker, who is also known as Alia Bent Sultan, uses photography to tell stories from her home town of Deira, Dubai. Her photographs are meticulously arranged and she often breaks down her compositions on her Instagram page, which has more than 43,000 followers.
In tribute to the Emirates Mars Mission, she released a photograph of an elderly woman in traditional clothing holding up a cardboard sign that reads in Arabic: “We’ve reached Mars.” In another series, she shows the same elderly woman, her wrists decorated with elaborate traditional jewellery as well as an Apple Watch, or tying the laces of a modern pair of trainers, evoking the local culture of incorporating the past with the future.
A fine arts photographer from Ghana, Michael Aboya’s journey in the industry began when his father died in 2016. A software engineering student at the time, Aboya halted his studies and decided to pursue photography as a way to realise his own dreams before it was too late.
With a keen eye for composition and lighting, Aboya’s works are replete with symmetry and often tell stories that inspire and explore emotions of strength and love.
"Explaining how I feel in words can be one of the most difficult things I try to do," he says in an Instagram post. "So, I turn to pictures because they hold an infinite flow of words and a beautiful story to tell and learn from, not just for myself but for everyone."
Aboya has had exhibitions in countries ranging from Spain and France, to Ghana and the US. He has also been published by Forbes, the BBC and Sony Alpha Universe.
Sami Sasso is a Lebanese photographer who was born in Senegal and now lives in Dubai. Through his freelance work, Sasso has covered a range of subjects and themes. However, the photographs closest to his artistic intent are the ones that feature cars. In fact, photographing cars was the driving reason why he first picked up a camera, the artist says in his statement on the Xposure website.
His 2021 Fragment Series is an in-depth study of cars and colours. The works were offered as a limited-run fine art print before being displayed at the Kanvas art gallery in Dubai.
Swee Choo Oh
Swee Choo Oh is a fine art architecture photographer who has an idiosyncratic way of approaching light, texture and form when photographing buildings. As a trained architect, her insights on positive and negative space inform her career as a photographer, fusing the artistic and the technical.
Among her most acclaimed works is her study of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, which was designed by Frank Gehry. A structure photographed by many, the Malaysian-born photographer coaxes an almost mythological splendour from the building in Transformation of Narcissus.
French photographer Laurent Baheux has been photographing the turmoil and majesty of the natural world for almost two decades.
He first turned to wildlife photography in the early 2000s, having grown weary of city life and covering sporting events. He travelled to Africa to photograph the continent’s animals and nature, spending five years in the savannah.
In 2013, Baheux was named a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, participating in the Wild & Precious anti-poaching campaign. Much of his work since has been dedicated to honouring the dignity of animals in their natural environments, with the aim of protecting them and their habitats.