UAE rewards top class international photographers

Tens of thousands of photographs were entered for HIPA this year

Peter Harrison
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World class photography has been celebrated in Dubai with more than 30,000 images competing for top prizes at the fourth annual Hamdan International Photography Award on Monday.

After several days of shortlisting, the judges eventually managed to choose the best.


The overall winner, who also scooped the massive $120,000 cash prize was Anurag Kumar, 29, from Mumbai, India, whose photograph captured the attention of the judges with an explosion of color in his image of people celebrating the festival of Holi.

He said he managed to get the image by climbing to the top of a building so that he was above the action.

Kumar explained: “It wasn’t an easy picture to take because there were so many people there. But I was determined to get a good photo and I’m really happy it’s won because I never expected it.”

HIPA award winning photograph (Courtesy of HIPA)
HIPA award winning photograph (Courtesy of HIPA)

Smartphone cameras

Photography has become increasingly widespread with the introduction of smartphones, but competition judge Tom Ang said that this did not mean that everyone was a photographer.

“I think everyone being able to make a photograph, using things that they are carrying in their shirt pocket doesn’t make them anymore of a photographer, than the fact that these days everyone has keyboards and can write emails makes them a writer," he said.

“This is a little bit like watching the Olympics, you just know that there is no way you could run even 25 meters in the time that these guys do in 100 meters. But if that stops you exercising and trying, well then you can become the couch potato that you want to be.”

HIPA award winning photograph (Courtesy of HIPA)
HIPA award winning photograph (Courtesy of HIPA)

And he said the aim of events like the HIPA competition was to motivate people into thinking: “I want to be able to do that - I should be able to do that,” and push themselves.

Winner of the special award for photo research, Scott Kelby, who is the editor, publisher, and co-founder of Photoshop User magazine said that photographers should avoid getting too obsessed with having the very best cameras and start to embrace the use of camera phones as a format.

“We either have to grow with this or get left behind by it. The fact that your phone has an 8 megapixel camera, that you can share it instantly, that you can edit - I think this is awesome. I have tens of thousands of images on my phone… I love it and I think we have to embrace this because cameras on phones are only going to get better," he said.

“The noise on the images is going to get lower and lower, the lenses are going to get better and better. So why not just get really good at every kind of camera, not just the one that costs a ton of money?”

UAE rewards top class international photographers (Courtesy of HIPA)
UAE rewards top class international photographers (Courtesy of HIPA)

Changes in attitude

The UAE has in recent years reiterated its strict laws governing photography - including the photography and posting of pictures of people without their consent.

Such an act can lead to the offender being jailed. But Ali Bin Thalith, Secretary General of the awards said he believed there had been significant development in attitudes towards photography in the country.

The photography enthusiast said: “The UAE community has become more open and we are more and more understanding. Previously photography was not an understandable art to the community here - but that idea has changed.

“This is a religious country - as a photographer I can take a picture of whatever I need. But if you photograph a person - including myself - you are going to be asked what are your intentions for taking this photo?”

UAE rewards top class international photographers (Courtesy of HIPA)
UAE rewards top class international photographers (Courtesy of HIPA)

But he said that when he started photography 15 years ago it was much more difficult to use a camera in the open, but he said the situation had changed for the better.

And he said that this was reflected by the amount of people from the UAE entering - and winning - photographic competitions.

In fact 19.4 percent of participants globally in the Hamdan International Photography Award are from the Middle East - with nearly five percent of all those taking part coming from the UAE and more than three percent from Egypt.

Ali Bin Thalith said: “[Dubai Crown Prince] Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched HIPA as an initiative to actively support those dedicated artists and enthusiasts who chose life as their limitless canvas, and the lens as their colorful paintbrush through which they convey the true beauty and power of photography.”

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