SAF Celebrates Outstanding Photographic Work with the Vantage Point Photography Awards

The Sharjah Art Foundation recently announced the five winners of this year’s Vantage Point Photography Awards. The awards were presented at the opening of the annual Vantage Point Sharjah (VPS) photography exhibition at SAF’s Al Hamriyah Studios.

This year, Md Fazla Rabbi Fatiq won the top prize, while the four finalists were Hady Barry, Kirti Kumari, Morteza Niknahad and Neec Nonso.

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An international jury of eminent photographers – Solmaz Daryani, Lamya Gargash and Sohrab Hura – selected the winner and four runners-up, who received cash prizes of $5,000 and $1,500 each, respectively.

The exhibition’s opening program included a discussion with the winners, where they shared the stories behind their winning photographs as well as details about their inspiration and practice.

Manifesting the spirit of experimentation in creating lens-based images, VPS presents works that celebrate photography’s ability to perceive social realities and the diversity of contemporary lives from multiple perspectives.

“Dark Garden” by Md Fazla Rabbi Fatiq depicts the historic plight of tea workers on the Sylhet plantations in Bangladesh. In the 19th century, the British tea management brought in workers from other provinces of India, promising them a bright future.

Tea workers and their subsequent generations never received land rights. Fatiq says these tea workers still live in mud houses. “I want to show their identity, their culture and their roots. Some things need to be said straight up,” he says.

His work reveals the duality of the situation, showing the broken hand of the tea worker, fireflies in the night and the beauty of tea gardens, juxtaposed with harsh reality.

Hady Barry in her work “Wearing the Inside Out” is the story of a friendship and an exploration of motherhood. Barry takes a sabbatical from his managerial career to portray his friend’s second pregnancy in Guinea and explore the duality in the relationship.

“It’s important to start from within. I believe in a collaborative approach,” says Barry.

“One Day At Night” by Kirti Kumari is her graduation project exploring a traditional community in northern India. She spends time with the people of the village, sharing their folk tales and legends.

The culmination of her work is the depiction of how the women of this region are collectively haunted by spirits.

“Big Fish” by Morteza Niknahad is a highly symbolic and autobiographical work based on his mother’s depression and how the lives of the whole family changed after his mother was unable to shake off the effects of a nightmare – that of a monster following her.

Sharing her mother’s story with the rest of the world, Niknahad says, “My art is the only thing that helped my mother get better.

Introduced in 2013 to cultivate public engagement with photography as an artistic medium, VPS has grown into a dynamic platform that encompasses multiple approaches to photography, from photojournalism and photographic essays to experimental work in analog and digital.

The 10th edition of VPS received over 450 submissions to its open call. Works by 66 artists from 34 countries have been selected for the exhibition, which will remain on view until December 11, 2022 at SAF’s Al Hamriyah Studios, Al Hamriyah, Sharjah.

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Michael E. Marquez