Sharjah: The beauty of the night sky over the UAE has been showcased by a leading photographer at Xposure International Photography Festival, which concluded on Saturday at Expo Centre Sharjah after four days.
Sami Al Olabi, an Egyptian-Syrian photographer, shared images and clips of UAE nightscapes during his talk, saying the country has a lot of offer visually than deserts. Speaking of his journey of becoming a photographer, he said: “I started exploring different places in the UAE. I was surprised to find out that the UAE had much more to offer than the desert. I found unexplored mountains, valleys and even water bodies that I could shoot. I scouted to different locations every weekend. I looked and looked till I found magnificent places.”
In search of darkness
At Xposure, Al Olabi showed images that helped the audience understand the secrets of the winter, summer and autumn skies. He showed them the beauty of our Milky Way galaxy through a detailed imagery of formations such as Rosette nebula, Horsehead nebula, Lagoon nebula, Eagle nebula, Cat paw nebula and much more. Al Olabi also explained how he looked for the darkest areas all over the Middle East to catch the stars clearly, shared images of fossils in Wadi Hitan and the sophisticated formations in the White desert of Egypt. Sami also revealed the secrets of his photography with budding photographers, telling them they did not need complex equipment and software to shoot nightscapes.
“We photographers must try to come out of our comfort zones and discover new places. Instead of sticking to cityscapes, we must try to capture something unique. Beauty is all around us, all we need is to look around,” he said.
The festival’s fifth edition also focused on capturing conflict. On Friday, British photographer Sohail Karmani, who is also a professor at New York University in Abu Dhabi, tackled the ethical complexities and moral dilemmas of covering war through the lens. During his talk, ‘The Ethics of Capturing the Suffering of Others’, Karmani asked the audience to visualise themselves in a war zone where they come across an elderly woman with tears streaming down her face, seated on a pile of rubble of what was probably once her home and the raw emotion of anguish, pain and suffering vividly seen in her eyes as the sun perfectly frames her face in a gentle glow. He then posed the question: “Do you turn your camera towards her to capture this moment which has all the visual elements of a powerful shot or would taking a photo of the distraught woman be deemed unethical?”
While a few opined their first instinct would be to console the woman as they would not want to exploit a tragic situation, others believed that war photographers had a moral duty to document the realities of war and expose its horrors to hopefully lead to remedial action.
Food for thought
The second scenario he placed before the audience was about being witness to physical violence by an armed soldier to a civilian in a conflict zone. This time, most of the audience agreed that they would document the evidence of human rights abuse to bring its violation to light. The dissenting voices felt it was their moral obligation as human beings to help the person in question before taking the photograph.
Karmani said: “The purpose of this is not to present ethical guidelines to be a better human being, nor am I going to take a position. Instead, the intention is to foster a conversation in which we have an opportunity to think through, rationalise, and articulate our moral position.”
Mleiha site visit
A team of 51 national, regional, and international photographers participating in the fifth edition of the Xposure International Photography Festival in Sharjah visited archaeological site of Mleiha, to gain an appreciation of the region’s natural history and ancient Bedouin culture.
Hosted by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), organisers of Xposure 2021, the globally renowned photographers were warmly welcomed at the desert environs of Mleiha where they experienced the true essence of Arabian hospitality.
The breathtaking natural landscape of the region’s most important natural history site formed the backdrop of a gala dinner as the Xposure 2021 photographers networked with their fellow counterparts from around the globe, sharing insights and experiences of their respective photographic journeys.