DUBAI: Creatives are gearing up for the seventh edition of the Xposure International Photography Festival, which is set to take place in the UAE from Feb. 9 to 15.
Organized by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau, the event at the Expo Center Sharjah will feature 74 world-renowned photographers and a display of 1,794 prints.
One of the participating artists is Saudi photographer Ahmad Al-Saif, who specializes in travel and culture-focused photography.
Al-Saif said his work would take visitors on a journey to Africa to learn about the tribes of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia.
“The focus of these nations in my work is to illustrate their fascinating lifestyle and heritage. They distinguish themselves from other tribes with unique body paints, scarification and lip and ear plates,” he said. “These body modifications and beautifications, as they consider them, have a deep-rooted heritage and reasons.
“I wish I could find the words to describe what it feels like to visit these tribes and I aspire to convey a little bit of their beauty in this exhibition,” he said.
One of his favorite pictures to be showcased at the exhibition is “Glance” — a photograph taken of the Karo tribe.
“This picture was taken (in) the first few minutes when I reached the Karo tribe land,” he said. “The picture captured a child’s curiosity to see me for the first time, which had a similar reflection of my curiosity when I saw them.”
“Glance” was awarded an honorary award in the Sheikh Hamdan International Photography Competition in 2016.
Al-Saif’s infatuation with photography started in early 2007 when he was only 20 years old.
He started experimenting using his father’s compact camera at first. He then bought his first DSLR camera in 2009 and started taking professional photos of Saudi Arabia’s local communities and cultural heritage, especially in his home city of Al-Ahsa.
“As a child, I was curious and liked to try new things. Similar to photography, I have practiced swimming, football and drawing,” he recalled. “However, the love for photography kept growing inside me until I had the chance to get my own camera when I was 21 years old. At this age I knew that I had the passion and the drive to pursue photography professionally.”
Al-Saif considers photography an integral part of his identity. He believes that travel photography has made him “a different person.”
“I learned to see all things with a beautiful eye, and I became more accepting with respect to the difference in people, cultures and religious beliefs,” he explained.
However, being a travel photographer does come without its challenges. “One of the main issues is the restriction that is imposed in some regions or countries as well as safety. The other thing is expenses of these trips that limit our travel duration and frequency,” he explained.
Despite having a photography career that spans over 13 years, Al-Saif believes he is only starting.
“The first thing I always tell myself and other ambitious youth is to start sailing in the world of exploration and travel, and to capture beautiful moments that you see with your eyes, to share experiences with the world,” he said.