Swee Choo Oh: “The Transformation of Narcissus 2003”, 130x130 cm. Courtesy of Sharjah Government Media Bureau.

International Photography Festival
between the Visible and the Invisible

The seventh edition of “Exposure” International Photography Festival which was held at the Sharjah Expo Center in the first half of February 2023 was full of life with photos of space, wildlife, sports, buildings, and cities, in addition to personal photos and others that tell the human history, dreams, games, sufferings, and scenes of daily life through the geography of existence. Sometimes the photos would reveal amazing visuals; other times they would hide behind a cryptic light narrative that is unbridledly oriented toward purely artistic existence. The intelligent photographing eye is found to build the scene, seize the meaning, perpetuate the event, compose the idea, and venture everywhere by crossing all the obstacles and hardships to achieve its goal in terms of chronicling the existence of humans, living beings, and the many inspiring things that exist in every corner of the earth and its surrounding universe.
In this equable and exceptional edition, the festival, organized by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau, consolidates the creative existence of ‘Exposure’ as one of the most prominent international events specialized in photography. The festival’s uniqueness does not only emanate from the stunning presentation but also from the in-depth messages, philosophies, ideas, and visions proposed by fervent awareness that is preoccupied with the image, its circumstances, and the superiority of its industry in the era of future technologies that do not stop at the borders of a planet or even a vaster space.

Souhayl A: “The Violine Perfect”, 90x 60 cm. couple playing violin in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 2017. Courtesy of Sharjah Government Media Bureau.

The festival brought together 74 international photographers and adventurers who displayed 1,794 images in 68 individual and group exhibitions, including exhibitions that approach the aesthetics of artistic formation in its conceptual, surreal, and abstract dimensions, along with retrospective exhibitions of the most influential photographers in the world during the past decades.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful solo exhibitions concerned with the art of urbanization is ‘The Transformation of Narcissus 2003 and Selected Works’ by the photographer ‘Swee Choo Oh.’ She soared with her pictures into the space of contemporary museum-like buildings with their towering construction solutions which pertain to the loftiness and uniqueness of structure that dominate the viewer’s heart and eyes, especially in those unique images that highlight the aesthetics of ‘The Broad’ museum in Los Angeles.

Bara Prasilova: “Cake”, 80×80 cm. Courtesy of Sharjah Government Media Bureau.
Bara Prasilova: “Without Clouds”, 90×72 cm. Courtesy of Sharjah Government Media Bureau.

The photographer ‘Souhayl A’ succeeded in his exhibition ‘I Walk in Paris with Love’ in capturing his photographic material through his ten-year wandering period around the French capital, Paris, its means of transportation, gardens, and squares. He was taking his amazing shots from inside the metro railcars, through the sidewalks, and on the outskirts of the famous Parisian landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Pompidou Center, Saint Martin River, and the main building of the French Democratic Confederation of Labor. The photos reflect celebrating metro stations, street art, lighting poles, and people in all these places where the streets are alive and the walls have much to say. Put differently, the photos are full of life; they pulse with the rhythm of the depicted people and creatures in which the photographer chooses black and white to give his photos a touch of nostalgia, longing, timelessness, and eternal charm.
Bara Prasilova’s ‘Circles’ occupies a unique position among the festival’s exhibitions. It is inspired by the circular shape, its visual and philosophical significance, realistic and imaginary dimensions, and philosophy that talks of the quest to keep pace with the universe in terms of existence and expansion through movement and circular permanence, starting from the smallest circles that spread in our small world. In this alluring exhibition, we find a group of pulsating surreal ideas. An example is a candy bar that includes, across its upper circle, a group of lips joined around several burning cigarettes instead of the supposed candles. Another work entitled ‘Without Clouds’ depicts a kneeling girl with her braids extending on both sides to form a fence-like closed circle. In the inner surroundings of the circle and on the opposite side of the girl, there is a child staring at the depth which consists of a far extended fence, just like a continuous echo of the remote meaning that is compiled by the photographer, the picture’s characters, and the cooperative viewer.
The photographer, Gabriel Wickbold, chose the human face in the section entitled ‘Naivety’ of his exhibition to show that the human face is capable of offering many possibilities through the apparent facial features that conceal many secrets, feelings, and hidden ideas that do not simply appear on the surface. In another section entitled ‘Connected,’ Wickbold combined human beings with the communication network lines (Internet) to express the connection and the dominance of this digital medium over human life in our modern era, its ability to take over human existence, and its capacity to put man in the clutches of its control and power.

Jodi Cobb: “Geisha Dance”, Koyoto, Japan, 90×60 cm. Courtesy of Sharjah Government Media Bureau.
Brian Hodges: “The Ball”, 145×116.6 cm. Courtesy of Sharjah Government Media Bureau.
Gabriel Wickbold: “Naïve #16”, mineral pigment on paper, 110×110 cm. Gabriel Wickbold.
Neil Leifer: Mohamed Ali vs Cleveland Williams (Aerial). Courtesy of Sharjah Government Media Bureau.

Brian Hodges who had traveled to Uganda’s countryside did observe the passion of children about football. He depicted how they succeeded in hand-crafting atypical balls consisting of pieces of fabric, socks, banana leaves, tires, and twigs to suit playing with bare feet on hard or carpeted-with-pebble ground. The visually rich balls reflected the artistic sense of African people and their ability to create what they need in ingeniously artistic ways. These images clearly conveyed the African people’s attachment to football and their eagerness to play it in all places, at all times, and with unparalleled balls in beauty and finesse of workmanship.
This mesmerizing exhibition succeeded in conveying the image’s ability to monitor diversity in the visual unit and present it in an artistic context that restores the consideration to ordinary objects in daily life by placing them at the forefront of the scene in terms of their eloquent artistic value.
In the exhibition ‘Looking Closely,’ the photographer Jodi Cobb presents a wonderful collection of photographs she has taken over four decades. Cobb is considered one of the most influential photojournalists of her time, and she is the only field photographer in the history of National Geographic. During her extensive career, she has traveled to 65 countries to document cultures and social life and to shed light on women’s issues and existence. She is the first photographer to be invited to discover the exclusive and ancient Japanese culture of Geisha. Her diverse and wonderful exhibition was presented in the festival in terms of pictures that are full of humor, horror, beauty, and absurdity. Her exhibition reflects a wide area of ​​the photographer’s awareness and her passion in documenting human cultures as to their diversity, multiplicity, and distinctive existence.
The festival also celebrated the finest works of the international photographer Neil Leifer by displaying a group of his most famous photographs including an overhead shot of Muhammad Ali after the boxer Cleveland Williams was knocked out in the second round during the final match of the heavyweight boxing tournament in Amsterdam in 1966. The exhibition included many other photos of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Sylvester Stallone, Joe Kennedy, and of Neil Leifer himself with Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro, in addition to a group of famous photos taken by Leifer pertaining to sport, wildlife, panorama, and politics.


Poet, novelist, visual art researcher, received a master's degree in art history from Cairo Academy of Fine Arts in 2008, and a bachelor's degree in expressive arts from the Decorative Department of the Minya Academy of Fine Arts in 1996.
He also chaired the International Intellectual Seminars Committee for the Sharjah Calligraphy Forum, the Islamic Arts Festival, and the Sharjah Prize for Fine Critical Research at the Arts Department in the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah until 2012.

“Al Tashkeel” Magazine

he first issue of “Al Tashkeel” Magazine was published back in 1984, four years after the formation of the Emirates Fine Arts Society. The fine arts movement was witnessing growth and gaining traction on all other artistic levels.