International ‘Xposure’ Photography Exhibition Opens In UAE As Mass Vaccination Allows Events To Re-Start

With nearly half of its population vaccinated and strict testing regimes for tourists, the UAE is one of the first to emerge from the Coronavirus crisis. Restaurants, cafes and public spaces are open and now cultural events have restarted with the opening of the 5th edition of the International ‘Xposure’ photography festival.  The event features 1588 photographs taken by more than 400 photographers in 54 different exhibits. 36 different photography workshops are being held to highlight the latest know-how of photography techniques. The event will also feature 21 different interactive panel discussions involving some of the world’s leading photographers.

Despite high vaccination rates many special measures are being taken by the event organizers to ensure the safety of participants and the thousands of expected visitors. PCR test results must be shown, temperature testing is carried out and enhanced ventilation and disinfecting of the air supply.

Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council, stressed that the health measures were vital and because of the progress now made ‘’life must go on, we cannot stop forever.  The festival aims to give voice to the photographers who have been on the frontline of the pandemic or those still battling to highlight important global humanitarian, environmental and gender issues despite the restrictions on movement and communication.

UAE based Indian photographer Ashok Verma praised government efforts to provide a safe environment so that the event could go ahead.

Brent Stirton, who has been published by National Geographic Magazine, GEO, Le Figaro, Le Monde, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Time, The New York Times Magazine, The UK Sunday Times Magazine and many others, reflected during the opening ceremony, on the 10 months he spent last year, chronicling the illegal meat trade: “Every year an excess of 40 million kilograms of wild meat is brought into Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is where zoonotic diseases come from… This is why we are wearing masks today. We need to create stricter laws against the sale of illegal wild species for human consumption.”

Funding for wildlife and environmental conversation efforts has been badly affected since the outbreak of COVID-19, “These are the side-effects of the pandemic” says Izzy Sasada, representing the work of Aaron Gekoski and Four Corners. The project focuses on human-animal conflict in their exhibit about wildlife tourism and the exotic pet trade. Izzy stressed that travel restrictions have made it very difficult for photojournalist to travel and work and the downside of the slump in tourism has most probably worsened the poor conditions in which many animals were already.

Giles Duley is a documentary photographer and writer who is triple-amputee after he was injured by an IED while working in Afghanistan in 2011. Duley knows well what isolation and overcoming difficulties really means. During this last visit in DRC he saw the effect of the pandemic regarding the lack of international donations. The lack of funding is leading to starvation and in the last orphanage he visited the children were eating only one meal a day. He hopes that the COVID-19 battle will make society more resilient and that 2021 can be a positive turning point of our generation.

Sheikh Sultan, who is ultimately responsible for Xposure reflected that the crisis had prompted us to ‘’focus on the things you have and not on the things you don’t.”

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