Photography can help Dubai realise its ambitions

Fans visit a collection titled "Heat" of Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer Mario Testino in Dubai. Kamran Jebreili / AP
Fans visit a collection titled "Heat" of Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer Mario Testino in Dubai. Kamran Jebreili / AP

There is no greater feeling than following your dreams and being supported on that journey. As a photographer, I had the pleasure of having great teachers, lecturers, mentors, friends and family who believed in my pursuit of the road less travelled: the creative road.

Today as the Secretary General of the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA), I have the opportunity to support other young and upcoming talent to pursue their dreams of becoming the next Sebastiao Salgado or Ansel Adams.

Photography as an art form has flourished across the globe in the past century and a half. It has become an integral link to our existence as a society, capturing the legacy of our past while also offering a glimpse into our future. This is perfectly summarised by the great American photographer Sally Mann, who once said: “Photographs open a door into the past but also allow a look into the future.”

Dubai is fast evolving into one of the most artistically conscious and established cities in the world, with a thriving knowledge economy.

HIPA has been an integral part of this evolution, by promoting Dubai as a global hub for photography, cultivating artistic appreciation for the art form and nurturing photographic excellence. Now in its sixth year, the award has significantly raised awareness of the art of photography among the Emirati population and across the GCC.

Our dedication to the development of the Emirati and Arab photographer does not stop here. More recently, the Dubai Photo Exhibition, an international photography showcase held in March, was launched under HIPA’s patronage, offering the region a global perspective on photography through its presentation of museum-quality 20th and 21st century works on an unprecedented scale.

We believe that the horizons of growth for Arab photographers can only continue to expand. There are more than 100 million youth in the region, a proportion of whom are passionate about photography and would like to work in related industries. By aligning the aspirations of these young people with the thriving photography industry, we can open up new career avenues outside the region’s traditional industries.

More than an art form, photography has become a thriving industry contributing to the global creative and cultural economy that, in 2015, has created 29.5 million jobs, employing 1 per cent of the world’s active population. In the Middle East and Africa alone, creative and cultural industries have created 2.4 million jobs.

The photography industry in Dubai – and more importantly, the passion and ambition of young photographers within it – can further realise Dubai’s ambition of becoming one of the most creative, connected and cultural cities in the world.

HIPA sees Expo 2020 as a perfect partner to target the youth population and inspire them to reach unprecedented heights in their creative spheres. Albeit a massive undertaking, through educational programmes, events and workshops and with the right environment and care this can be achieved. It is through a shared commitment with like-minded entities such as Expo 2020 that we provide a platform that allows young people to create and innovate, that we can help them become a central part of the GCC’s knowledge economy, and provide them with more professional opportunities.

There is symmetry to what ­HIPA and Expo 2020 are trying to accomplish with the region’s youth. We both aim to create connections that transcend boundaries and foster creativity and innovation, ensuring a better future for the region.

This natural symmetry with ­Expo 2020 has inspired a photo­graphy competition for our GCC youth.

Focusing on the Expo 2020 subthemes of opportunity, mobility and sustainability, young photographers will get the chance to become winners in each of these categories at the 2016 edition of YouthConnect, and give us a glimpse into their future aspirations.

Ali bin Thalith is the Secretary General of the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award

Published: September 19, 2016 04:00 AM

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