Activities of Dubai’s GPP Photo Week draw high international attendance

Photo Week featured more than 105 activities including 21 exhibitions and 38 free photography programmes.
Sunday 25/02/2018
Iranian photographer Jalal Sepehr’s “Havapeyma” from the series titled “Red Zone.” (GPP Photo Week)
Top attraction. Iranian photographer Jalal Sepehr’s “Havapeyma” from the series titled “Red Zone.” (GPP Photo Week)

DUBAI - Dubai’s 14th GPP Photo Week, convened under the theme “Shift Your Focus,” drew amateurs, top international and regional professional photographers and large crowds of art lovers.

The event, which took place at Alserkal Avenue in the city’s bustling art district of Al Quoz, exceeded organisers’ expectations.

“It was definitely our highest attended event to date and the quality and breadth of activities, exhibitions and programming for our 2018 edition lead me to believe that we succeeded in fuelling people’s passion behind photography through inspiring exhibitions and talks, hands-on workshops and thought-provoking panel discussions,” said Mohamed Somji, co-director of GPP Photo Week 2018.

The Yard at Alserkal Avenue featured the event’s top attractions, including Jalal Sepehr’s “Red Zone” exhibition of large outdoor banner images and the immaculately displayed “Souls Against the Concrete” at Concrete and Osborne Macharia’s “Black to the Future” exhibition, which showed up on many Instagram feeds, Somji said.

“Our spotlight sessions too were very well-attended and included everything from astrophotography to mastering documentary wedding photography and brought in large audiences every day,” he said.

Initial indications point to a growth on last year’s attendance of more than 8,000 visitors encouraging organisers to likely upgrade future editions.

“We would love to include more interactive activities to encourage photographers to share and connect with each other. We are also going to look into involving children and young adults in our next edition,” Somji said.

“We plan as well to make GPP Photo Week an international event for people from all over the world to attend. The fact that we had artists showcasing work from New York, Kenya and Iran among others is very important to us.”

GPP Photo Week was designed to be a photography festival in which not only professional photographers and amateurs wanting to hone their technical skills could participate but also for the general art-loving public to enjoy and “get inspired by the work that they see,” Somji said.

Sepehr, an Iranian photographer, commented on the use of carpet as a simple, recognisable imagery in “Red Zone,” saying: “Carpets possess a mystery and magic, with layers and layers of cultural history as opposed to its use as a commodity.”

Sepehr presented the Eastern dimension of social history and set it against the socio-political tensions and turmoil across the region. “Being a refugee represents all of us who live in this region,” he said.

The exhibitions “Souls Against Concrete” and “Arab of New York” by Khalik Allah drew a big audience on opening night. His work has been described as “street opera” and the exhibition showed portraits of a marginalised community in Harlem, alongside the recently commissioned photos of the Arab diaspora in New York.

Macharia, a self-taught Kenyan photographer, presented “Black to the Future | Reimagining Now” as a combination of two independent works titled “Magadi” and “Nyanye” that introduced the viewer to seven transcendental women leading the charge towards a better tomorrow.

“I recreate stories using fiction and most of my subjects are people who are not well-documented. What I do resonates around the whole continent,” Macharia said.

Running parallel with Photo Week at Alserkal Avenue was “Saudi Seen,” at Project Space Art Jameel, featuring a new generation of image-makers from Saudi Arabia working across documentary, art, portrait and landscape photography.

British-Egyptian photographer Laura el-Tantawy’s exhibition “Beyond Here Is Nothing” was displayed. Having spent her life moving between East and West, her work portrays an intimate and emotive visual exploration of rootlessness. The exhibition will continue through March 31.

Photo Week featured more than 105 activities including 21 exhibitions and 38 free photography programmes that included on-location shoots along the coast, in the desert, Satwa, Old Dubai and locations throughout the city. Workshops and seminars covering a range of skills and techniques related to photography were presented by internationally acclaimed photographers such as Sara Lando, Hugh Kretschmer, RC Concepcion, Tanya Habjouqa, Maggie Steber and Kevin Mullins.

Visitors could enjoy a variety of free activities, including Snap Sessions and Spotlight programming. Leading camera brands such as Canon, Sony, Nikon and Panasonic were all in Alserkal to present camera cleaning services, new products and special offers, including the unveiling of the new Panasonic Lumix G9 and GH5S cameras.

“One of the biggest highlights this year has been hosting the event out of Concrete. This incredible space has allowed us to expand our programming in more ways than ever before as we’ve utilised it for exhibitions, photography activations and artist panels,” Somji said.