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HIPA 2017: A Symphony of Sight, Sound, and Stories of Soul


Dubai’s annual photography event inspires the senses, on its Sixth Season

In a world that has become increasingly fragmented, due to a myriad of views and  belief systems, there are certain languages that are universal to us all. Music, art, photography, for instance; the languages of creativity – these are invaluable means of shared expression, both of self and of a people’s collective soul. These dialogues uplift and unify, provoke thought and discourse; they bring to light our shared humanity. These are the avenues on which we journey towards common ground.

On its Sixth Season, the recently concluded HIPA (Hamdan International Photography Awards), which bore the theme “The Challenge,” was a sublime celebration of sight, sound, and stories of soul. Held at the newly opened Dubai Opera on Mar. 15, the evening was the culmination of a yearlong search for the best of the best photographs from shutterbugs across the globe, set to the Symphony of Photography, by world-renowned composer Hughes de Courson, excellently performed by a full orchestra.

Stunning images flashed on the screen, as musical notes hung in the air (complete with cleverly mimicked clicks of the camera shutter), in what can best be described as a feast for the senses and the soul.

HIPA, in focus

HIPA bears the hallmarks of royalty and prestige, having been birthed in 2011 under the patronage of no less than Dubai’s Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (who is himself an avid art enthusiast and photographer). In recognition of photography’s universal impact, and in line with the vision to further develop the art form, the Emirate City of Dubai has played HIPA 2017 A Symphony of Sight, Sound, and Stories of Soul Dubai’s annual photography event inspires the senses, on its Sixth Season host to the annual event, since then. I have been fortunate to have been invited to the last two grand awarding ceremonies, and each one of these affairs has been nothing short of spectacular.

Since its inception, the contest has been very well-received by photographers the world over. Yearly, anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of photographers from hundreds of countries, the world over, send in their images, in hopes of bagging the acclaim, the coveted prize money, as well as the chance to tell their story. A total of US$423,000 was given away to 24 winners and awardees, across a total of six categories (including the Grand Prize, which was worth US$120,000, and the Special Awards categories). The images are then subject to a lengthy and rigorous process of judging by a panel of internationally lauded industry experts.

The announcement of HIPA's Sixth Season Grand prize

The announcement of HIPA’s Sixth Season Grand prize

Dubai Opera, venue of HIPA's The Challenge Grand Awards Ceremony

Dubai Opera, venue of HIPA’s The Challenge Grand Awards Ceremony

“The celebration we share with you tonight will be a mix of artistic inspirations. These inspirations have contributed to over a quarter of a million photographs being submitted into HIPA since its launch,” shared HIPA’s Secretary General, His Excellency Ali Khalifa Bin Thalith Al Humairi, as he opened the awards ceremony. “In fact, the ‘Portfolio’ category for this season alone has inspired a total of 33,950 photographs, highlighting the commitment many photographers have to the art of story-telling through the lens of their cameras.,” he added.

Stories of soul (and for the soul)

Behind each breathtaking, awe-inspiring photograph is a gripping story. For instance, Italian micro-life photographer Giuseppe Bonali’s amazing photo of an ant, drinking some dew off a blade of grass, took six hours to capture. Bonali patiently waited for the ant to “stand” for a drink. The bokeh of tiny flower petals in the background shows the painstaking detail of the image. For his efforts, he bagged first place in the General Category for Color. Incidentally, Bonali takes his photos to different schools in Italy, in order to teach children to value life, even in the smallest of forms.

1st Place - Giuseppe Bonali - Italy

1st Place – Giuseppe Bonali – Italy

The haunting self-portrait of 27-year old Egyptian photographer, Lubna Abdelaziz, merited fourth in HIPA’s newest category, Digital Manipulation. In the image, Lubna rests her chest and face atop a table, flowers in place of her head, hands hanging down to her sides. The photographer, one of three women to win in this year’s awards, shared that the roses, in varying degrees of freshness and decay, are symbolic of our hopes and dreams – some are in bloom, others, dead and wilted, or in the process of it.

4th Place - Lubna Abdelaziz - Egypt

4th Place – Lubna Abdelaziz – Egypt

These blooms are all a part of our being and comprise our thoughts and emotions – these collective emotions being too much to bear, at times. Lubna works on every single detail of each of her photographs – only 20 in all, over four years – by herself, to the minutest aspect. This is part of her artistry, and she works on each project for a painstaking amount of time. She captures only what she believes is worth expressing, and labors for it, accordingly.

The Grand Prize winner was American Arash Yaghmaeian with his “Landfill Cinderella” which took home the top cash prize. The heart wrenching image of a young Indian lady, atop a mountain of garbage and refuse, was captured by Yaghmaeian on one of his recent trips to India. He uses photography as a tool to bring light to social conditions across the globe, and says that the art form has been his saving grace, personally.

States of America (5) 1st Place - Giuseppe Bonali - Italy (6) 4th Place - Lubna Abdelaziz - Egypt GRAND PRIZE - Arash Yaghmaeian - United States of America

GRAND PRIZE – Arash Yaghmaeian – United States of America

The Moment

HIPA has announced the theme for the 2017-2018 installment of the contest: The Moment. “Additionally, in line with HIPA’s vision of supporting humanitarian causes, next season will witness the launch of ‘For You,’ an initiative that aims to share the message of giving and commitment all bundled into a box filled with love,” bin Thalith disclosed.

HIPA's Board of Trustees with Sixth Season winne

HIPA’s Board of Trustees with Sixth Season winne

Think you have what it takes to capture “The Moment” and tell your story of soul? Whip out your camera, and begin to speak in a universal tongue.

For the full list of winners and for contest details, visit www.hipa.ae/en/



Photos By NIGEL IAN LAXAMANA for YI TECHNOLOGY Y1-M1 and courtesy of HIPA