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Dubai Photo Exhibition: Cultural dialogues, in focus

Dubai, UAE – The first-ever Dubai Photo Exhibition was held from Mar. 16 to 19, on the heels of the very successful Fifth Season of the esteemed Hamdan International Photography Awards (HIPA). Under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, the exhibition was an ambitious endeavour and impressive photographic venture which showcased over 800 images from across the globe, as well as never before seen images of Dubai of old from the Royal Family’s personal collection. The collection of well-curated photos was carefully and beautifully mounted throughout 20,000 square feet of exhibition space, at a temporary museum in Dubai’s trendy new destination for creative arts and design, the Dubai Design District (d3).


Transcending boundaries


Curated over a period of 6 to 8 months – that in itself, a mind-boggling feat – the exhibition was an eye-catching, thought-provoking amalgam of the work of many of today’s renowned professional photographers, together with some of the most celebrated works of the 20th century and some of the earliest works in the field of photography.


“This is an exceptional exhibit, at par with major museums around the world. It is massive undertaking, and a labor of love,” shared Zelda Cheatle, a highly –esteemed curator, lecturer, editor and consultant from the United Kingdom and Head Curator of the Dubai Photo Exhibition.




Alongside Cheatle, 18 acclaimed international curators were chosen to select images from the body of work of photographers from over 23 countries. These efforts were in line with the organizer’s noble vision to transcend boundaries and nurture a dialogue on photography from various countries.


Evolutions and commonalities


Organized by the HIPA, the Dubai Photo Exhibition sought to trace the evolution of photography the world over, as well as to shine a light on the commonalities of the cultural exchanges that define the craft. The concept of photography as a global art form and bridge between cultures was likewise a common thread which ran through the vivid and vibrant tapestry that was the exhibit.


“Dubai Photo Exhibition covers an exceptionally wide scope and features some of the world’s most renowned artistic photographers,” said His Excellency Ali Bin Thalith, Secretary General of HIPA. “Through these artworks, visitors will witness an evolution of photography from its earliest beginnings to the sophisticated art form it has become today.”


Celebrating harmony and diversity


In celebration of harmony and diversity between peoples, Dubai Photo Exhibition took visitors through a visually stimulating, thought provoking and souls stirring journey spanning two centuries, through a foray into masterworks from Australia, Brazil, China, Korea, UK and Ireland, US and Canada, Egypt, Holland and Belgium, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Morocco, UAE, France, India, and Germany.


Aside from exploring cross-cultural similarities and tracing the evolution of photography as an art form, the exhibit aimed to “further elevate the medium of photography – the photograph – as collectible art.” Scott Gray, Founder and Managing Director of the World Photography Organisation, noted. Much like a painting or sculpture, for instance, a picture can be valued as an objet d’art; an art object worthy of being considered a collector’s item.


A hub for culture and creative expression


Supported by the World Photography Organisation (WPO), Dubai Photo Exhibition was birthed by HIPA to further the progress of Dubai as a cultural hub, to cultivate artistic appreciation for photography as an art form, to open up the avenues of dialogue, and to encourage photographic excellence and allow photo aficionados to further hone their craft through educational programs, events and workshops.


“By presenting these acclaimed and iconic images for the first time together in one location, Dubai Photo Exhibition affirms HIPA’s commitment to developing Dubai as a hub for photography, with the aim of stimulating interest in the art form and nurturing and inspiring the dynamic emerging regional photography scene,” H.E. Bin Thalith pointed out.


Top-calibre speakers and leaders in the field of photography led forums and workshops, throughout the course of the exhibit. The curators were likewise on hand and eager to answer questions and offer insightful information about the images on show.


Dubai Photo Exhibition is a pre-cursor to Dubai Expo 2020, and is in tandem with the Emirates city’s vision of becoming a highly creative, connected and cultural urban center.



Alexia Sinclair The Cabinets of Curiosity, from the series ‘A Frozen Tale’, 2013



Lieko Shiga Perfect World, 2006



Shaimaa Alaa Core beauty of a woman in her vulnerability, but her strength shows in controlling and breaking the boundaries to enforce her will whenever she likes, 2016



Scarlett Hooft Graa and Ballon Burkas (Socotra, Yemen), 2014 Courtesy of Flowers Gallery & the artist