Xposure 2021 brings the world to Sharjah

With 1,558 of the most striking images captured by 400 top photographers

February 01, 2021

SHARJAHThe fifth annual Xposure International Photography Festival is bringing to Sharjah some of the most inspiring images from across the world with 1,558 photos by 400 international photographers who have quite literally gone to the ends of the earth to capture nature’s beauty, people’s lives, historical events, and more. Fifty-one of the world’s best photographers whose works will be part of the grand Xposure 2021 showcase, are flying in for the four-day festival, which will take place from February 10 – 13, at the Expo Centre Sharjah.

The complete roster of a packed programme of events, which will define MENA’s leading photography festival this year, was unveiled at a press conference in House of Wisdom today (Monday), by Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB).

With 54 exhibitions, 21 public seminars and inspiring discussions, 14 workshops delivered by industry leaders, 8 focus groups and 14 expert-led portfolio reviews, the festival will play its role of being the biggest platform for hands-on learning and training in visual arts in the UAE and the region, once again this year. The festival will honour the emerging as well as renowned photography talents through its three awards.

Attended by a host of Arab and international journalists, media professionals and a group of photographers participating in Xposure 2021, the press meet was held in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council (SMC), and HE Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of SGMB.

Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi: Xposure is here to engage the global community once again and reiterate that art isn’t a luxury but fulfills our need to heal

Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi announced that Xposure is gearing up to launch a special award for photojournalists with press credentials, in recognition of their fearless devotion to documenting health crises, conflicts, natural and manmade disasters. He said: “We owe much to photojournalists who are relentless in their efforts to offer us a window into important changes taking place worldwide, and who allow us to relate to the varied experiences of people from different countries and cultures. Their work has been far more notable in the past year, since the outbreak of Covid-19 has created unprecedented circumstances globally.”

Underscoring the festival’s message this year, he noted: “Xposure brings us together this year to dive into exceptional visual storytelling by the world's best photographers. These stories will not be about the pandemic, but about life; they will focus not on social distancing, but on human interaction, celebrating nature, architecture, and the farthest places imaginable on Earth. Xposure is here to engage the global community once again, and reiterate that art isn’t a luxury but fulfills our need to heal.”

Responding to a question from HE Tariq Saeed Allay, SGMB Director, about his personal relationship with photography and what Xposure meant to him, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi said: “I love photography because it documents the beauty of our world. It is a common language among peoples, and finally, it brings together millions of people from different cultures who appreciate and practice this art. I believe in colours and its effects on our emotions. A world without colours is one without beauty.”

HE Tariq Saeed Ally, for his part, asserted that this edition of Xposure will be extraordinary at every level. “One of reasons this edition is outstanding is because, for the first time, the festival is launching an award to celebrate the commitment of photojournalists to document key events, jeopardising their own safety at times. Moreover, this will be Xposure’s biggest edition yet – in terms of the number of photographers, number of images in our exhibitions, and even the number of competition entries. Furthermore, the festival is being staged against the backdrop of profound global changes, in continuation of its committed efforts to support image makers and their projects.”

He stressed that the world needs the creativity of visual storytelling now more than ever, and that the efforts of photographers who have been covering the development of the pandemic globally can be likened to the ones of those who have been battling Covid-19 on the frontlines. “We need awareness and beauty, we need to travel and communicate, as well as engage in dialogue – and photographers enable us to do this,” he added.

Xposure 2021 announces eight slogans to enlighten, inspire and engage

Presenting the rationale behind Xposure’s selection of eight different slogans this year, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed, asserted: “All previous editions of Xposure carried one slogan. This year we chose eight in order to emphasise all the messages the festival has imparted since its inception five years ago. These messages, which have shaped Xposure into one of the most successful photography events in the world, we choose to reiterate this year. Here at Xposure, We Love Photography... We Host Experts... We Support Talents ... We Enlighten Minds ... We Believe in Colors... We Celebrate Art ... We Come Together ... to make life inspiring, engaging and exciting.”

All of these messages and promises come together to shine light on the festival’s ceaseless commitment to supporting and promoting images, image makers and the artistic community with their eighth slogan, ‘We are Xposure’.

Things to look forward to at Xposure 2021

54 exhibitions

Xposure is hosting its biggest edition yet, with 1,558 photographs by 400+ lens professionals, including contributions from 51 photographers who are attending the four-day festival. These works will be exhibited at 54 indoor exhibitions featuring 41 solo galleries and 13 group exhibitions.

Festival debutants

Gallery X

Gallery X, a permanent gallery in Sharjah hosting a collection of the works of world-renowned photographers who have participated in the Xposure International Photography Festival, will be launched at the fifth edition of the festival, which raises curtain on February 10.

The curation will also showcase stunning images captured by talented photographers who have won and been shortlisted for the past editions of the prestigious global Xposure Awards.

The first-of-its-kind gallery in the UAE dedicated to the medium, Gallery X pays homage to the development of the art of visual storytelling through the ages. With a permanent exhibition, a merchandise line, workshops and activities that will be held all year, Gallery X is a new cultural spot in Sharjah, which aims to bring UAE residents, visitors, creatives, and the youth a great new opportunity to come together to learn, share and celebrate the gift of image making.

Sharjah Events exhibition

In a bid to celebrate the hobbyist’s artistic eye, the SGMB initiative, Sharjah Events, recently launched ‘Sharjah Shines’ – an online platform, which collates user-generated content, that is, outstanding photographs and videos by UAE residents and visitors capturing Sharjah’s beauty and year-long activities. A selection of these works will be displayed at Xposure 2021.


With a whopping 33,187 entries that have poured in from 125 countries for 20/21 edition of the Xposure International Photography Awards, the stage for the hardest fought battle in the competition’s history has been set this season. Winners across all 10 categories of the competition will be announced during the closing ceremony of the festival on February 13.

Xposure’s global #homecaptured photo contest, which ran for six weeks in April – May last year, attracted 7,803 entries from 83 nations. SGMB announced the competition in a bid to offer individuals across the world a way to stay positive and creative amid the lockdowns that were being assumed globally to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Timothy Allen Photography Scholarship Award (TAPSA)

Xposure’s Timothy Allen Photography Scholarship Award (TAPSA) was in high-demand this year with a record participation of 1,600 applicants vying for its prestigious 10-day residency programme. The five winners of this edition of the scholarship are Michal Novotný from the Czech Republic for ‘Faces of Faith’, an exploration of manifestations of faith across the globe; Kiran Ridley from Great Britain for his extensive coverage of an unfolding political crisis titled, ‘Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests: The Revolution of our Time; and F.Dilek Uyar from Turkey whose ‘In Epicentre of COVID-19’ documents the work of frontline workers at the intensive care unit of her local hospital.

Also on the winners’ list this year are Ata Ranjbarzeydanlou from Iran who explores the lives of poor, garbage collectors in ‘Living Among the Garbage’; and freelance Russian photographer Natalia Gorshkova’s evocative tale of people challenging the odds titled, ‘Spin Control’.

21 seminars and inspiring talks

Xposure 2021 will open dialogue and enrich perspectives with award-winning visual storytellers, photojournalists, and emerging photographers coming together to share insights into their techniques and styles. They will narrate the moving stories behind their impactful images through 21 panel discussions and artist talks, centering around current and pressing themes of female voices in photography, the human – animal conflict, mental health in conflict-ridden nations, among several others.

14 specialised workshops

The fifth edition of Xposure will push on its commitment to nurturing emerging talent in the region by hosting 14 expert-led workshops, which will be delivered from 10 – 13 February in safe environments. These interactive, hands-on workshops will feature instructors skilled in creating targeted learning experiences, across three proficiency categories – beginners, intermediate and advanced.

Additionally, 8 free-to-attend focus groups will be held across the four-day festival, enabling up and coming photographers as well as practicing professionals to pick up invaluable lessons from international award-winning image makers.

Precautionary measures

Festival organisers are gearing up to host guests and visitors in a safe environment and announced that SGMB will be implementing globally practiced health and safety standards to throughout the four-day event. Common areas, workshop booths, the main auditorium and lecture halls will be sterilised the completion of each session in addition to an overnight sterilisation of the Expo Centre, thermal cameras will be installed at all entry points, and hand sanitizers will be made readily available across the festival venue. SGMB has stressed on the need for visitors to adhere to all the precautionary guidelines, maintain safe distance from visitors and wear a mask at all times when they are at the festival.

14 partnerships

This year, Xposure is partnering with Sharjah Police Headquarters, Ministry of Education, Sharjah Media City, Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, BMW, House of Wisdom, Expo Centre Sharjah, World Food Programme, Samsung, Third Eye , FABT, Medecins Sans Frontiers, Dolce Vita, iBrandConnect, TENAUI, The Ian Parry Scholarship, World Press Photo, Travel Photography of the Year, Emirates Photography Society, SIENA International Photo Awards, Union of Arab Photographers, Emirates Falcon Photography Society, Photowalk Connect.

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