On May 16th, 2012, the seventh edition of Slidefest, a quarterly event of photography presentations hosted by Gulf Photo Plus took place in the Knowledge Village Auditorium in Dubai, UAE. A part of GPP’s initiative to educate and inspire people from the Middle East and North Africa about the science and art of photography as a medium of creative expression, Slidefest aims to present personal projects by professional artists as well as its distinguished students. The photo series reflect the diverse backgrounds of the artists, and explore a multitude of genres from insight into the human condition, street photography to fine art images. Although projects vary thematically from artist to artist, all works are selected for their distinctive style and unified theme.
Slidefest VII showcased photographic works by eight local and regionally-based artists which included Ashkan Shafaati, Kamran Jebreili, Sara Naim, Basel Badran, Issa Saleh Alkindy, Lamia Gargash, Aya Atoui and Manal Elias, and Belinda Muller. Each artist was allotted five minutes to introduce their project, followed by a digitally projected presentation of their works, and a brief Q&A where the audience is invited to engage with the artist, learning more about what inspired their project and the techniques they applied to produce their works.
Ashkan Shafaati opened the evening by presenting a series of photographs he began in 2011 titled Planet X. The photographs are abstracted and symmetrical images of constructions sites and buildings, marked for their architectural character, found across Dubai. Shafaati believes each site and building is characterized by an individual identity and encompasses a universe in itself, reflecting the identity of each resident in Dubai and the cultural diversity that constitutes this metropolitan city.
Kamran Jebreili, an Iranian photographer who works for the Associated Press in Dubai, presented a series of photographs that document the 1500 year old village of Abyaneh found on the Western border of Iran’s central desert. Jebreili’s black and white photographs capture the essence and purity of an ancient village and its inhabitants, unscathed by modernization and urban development.
Sara Naim, an international artist who has exhibited works in cities such as London, Dubai, Cologne, New York and Guernsey presented a series of photographs that explore the theme of the intangible, and the boundaries between what is seen and unseen. Naim’s works comprised images of sound waves from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata conveying instances of silence and crescendo, skin cells to illustrate the inexistence of separation, images of food inspired by still life paintings to convey that life does not decay, and e-xrays of diseased corneas to juxtapose the beautiful and the infected. Sara Naim will be showcasing her latest series in a solo exhibition titled When the Lights Came Off We Saw at the Pavilion Downtown Dubai on July 5 through October 24.
Basel Badran, a Palestinian-Jordanian photographer in his own right opted to present the works of his late father, Abdulrazzaq Badran, a photo-journalist who documented the first Arab-Israeli war and Naqba, or Palestinian diaspora in 1947-1948, for the Egyptian publication Dar Al Hilal. Black and white photographs depicted the soldiers and victims of the war, as well as images of Palestine before it became a British mandate. Badran introduced the Abdulrazzaq Badran Photography Award, which is an annual event established in 2010 in cooperation with the Jordan Photography Society.
Issa Saleh Alkindy is an Omani freelance photographer who works and lives between the UAE and Oman. Alkindy presented a series of photographs titled The Rubber Chicken Project, which express the idea that one must not lose their sense of playfulness as they grow older in fear of appearing immature. Alkindy created the project as a response to a phrase he read which stated, “Immature is what broken people call fun people,” challenging his audience to join the fun people featured in his photographs.
Lamya Gargash an Emirati artist, presented a series of photographs from her first solo exhibition titled Through the Looking Glass, currently showing at the Third Line gallery. Gargash’s diptych portrait series explores themes of identity, perception and acceptance in a contemporary society. Her series evoke questions about self-perception and criticism in response to the distorted images of beauty projected by the media, and the drastic measures taken to live up to the false ideals of beauty accepted in our societies. Gargash’s solo exhibition will run until the 30th of June at the Third Line.
Aya Atoui and Manal Elias presented a collaborative project titled Projections, which examines Dubai’s perpetual state of change through a series of photographs that capture portraits of people projected onto buildings around the city. The digital projections serve to parallel the ephemeral and adaptive qualities that characterize a city inhabited by a large expat community and marked for its constantly reconstructed spaces.
Belinda Muller is a freelance photographer based in Dubai, who presented a series of photographs of the Kushti wrestling matches, a traditional Indian and Pakistani sport, held in Deira every Friday. Muller captures the energy and tension of the wrestlers in action and the spectators present at the match.
– Nadine Fattouh