The 2015 HIPA Photo Forum took place on March 18, 2015 at the Oberoi hotel in Dubai. Hosted by Parween Habib, the Forum was divided into 5 panels: HIPA+ new season of competition; What a photographer needs; Photographic technologies and new media; Photographic communities + clubs and CSR program.

The discussions raised many interesting topics and shed a new light on the vision of photography today, the photographer as an artist, the deep message and emotions behind every shot as well as the role of photographer within the context of education, social media and development of technology.

Panel 1: HIPA+ New Season of Competition


  • His Excellency Ali bin Thalith – HIPA Secretary General
  • Sahar Al Zarei – HIPA Assistant Secretary General
  • Henry Dallal – HIPA Board member

image 2015 HIPA Photo Forum, Panel 1 / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Since its inception, the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA) continues to inspire photographers from all around the world with its message of photographic excellence. The main category, serving also as the main theme for the fifth season of HIPA 2015-2016 competition is 'Happiness', and the other categories are: 'General', 'Wildlife' and 'Fathers and Sons'.

All four categories have a special appeal as they will no doubt touch on subject matters which will relate to a large portion of photographers all around the world. As is the case every season, photographers are encouraged to explore the world through their photography, hence the return of the 'General' category. The 'Wildlife' category is a challenge set in stone for those who enjoy adventure and capturing those “never repeating” moments which can only be captured in the wilderness. The 'Fathers and Sons' category is set to encourage photographers to explore the special the special bond many parents have with their children. And the 'Happiness' category invites photographers on this eternal quest, to capture and experience great life moments. It takes a keen photographer’s eye to capture these secret moments of happiness.

Next to four categories, also two Special Awards will be awarded: Photography Appreciation Award and Photographic Research/Report Award.

Panel 2: What a Photographer Needs


  • His Excellency Ali bin Thalith – HIPA Secretary General
  • Scott Kelby – American photography author and publisher
  • Hussein Daghiri – Saudi photographer and journalist
  • Martin Grahame-Dunn – British Photography trainer
  • Salah Haider – Iraqi photographer and critic

image 2015 HIPA Photo Forum, panel 2 / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The discussion revolved around the role of photography and the needs of photographer. HE Ali bin Thalith pointed out that "the difference between a photographer and an amateur is the fact that photographer takes images with feelings while an amateur takes images randomly with no attachment." "Photographers are not reading. If a photographer was prepared before taking photos, every image would be better. Every photo should be a result of research."

The debate brought up the social media and how do photographers use technology to advance their visibility. Panellists pointed out that social media can be a useful tool but it can't make one a photographer. With the huge amount of images taken daily there is a need for education and guidance. Scott Kelby said, "Social media has facilitated many options that help photographers. Education shouldn't be random. The social media is for sharing not for education, internet is a huge resource but it has to go hand in hand with the core training."

The debate continued with raising the question how can an amateur become a photographer and how important personal style and technical skills are to every photographer. Martin Grahame-Dunn said, "Before the internet it was difficult to be published as there were many instances of approval that one had to go through, from publishers to magazine editors. Now everything is online and if we want the photography to live forever, we should make prints. Let's start 'Make a print!' movement." The conversation heated as in the public there were those who defended social media-photographer relationship with passion claiming that social media can bring a great exposure and visibility as well as the connection to photographic community and those who opposed it claiming that huge quantity of images conceals the quality.

Panel 3: Photographic Technologies and New Media


  • Sahar Al Zarei – Assistant Secretary General HIPA
  • Yahya Massad – Jordanian photographer
  • Majid Sultan – Kuwaiti photographer
  • Martin Grahame-Dunn – British photography trainer

image 2015 HIPA Photo Forum, Panel 3 / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The panellists reflected on the new technology and new media. Martin Grahame-Dunn pointed out that "the camera manufacturers are now producing more and more photo cameras. Before every photographer had to have skills to take a photo as now there are so many buttons that many rely on. The technology development can be beneficial to older photographers who have problems with eyes since there are many gadgets available. Technology is a friend." Majid Sultan said that "before one could only be heard, seen or read, now we have all together on one website."

The conversation tilted back to social media as some photographers use social media to become 'stars' with many followers who are praising them, with no real critique. Martin Grahame-Dunn remarked that "rock-stars that perform once and then quickly fade away." Sahar Al Zarei added, "Marketing is 70% of success" and continued "Through social media you communicate to a large group of people, but that will not make you a photographer."

Yahya Massad said that there are "many online resources available that photographers can download to learn and educate themselves." Massad also raised the question of whether a photographer can make a living today and took as an example well-known photographer Reza who had to sell his camera to fund his work.

Panel 4: Photographic Communities + Clubs


  • Jassim Al Awadhi – HIPA Judge/ Chairman of the UAE Association of Photographers
  • Ramzi Haider – Lebanese photographer
  • DL Cade – 500px
  • Adib Shaaban – President of the Arab Photographers Association

image 2015 HIPA Photo Forum, panel 4 / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The role of photographic communities and associations is basically well perceived by photographers. Many see the benefit in having an association helping photographers with permissions and accreditations. But they don't see associations as a way to get commissions or education. When it comes to photographic communities, Ramzi Haider said "The role of community is that photographers can share and educate each other by giving their support. These platforms allow photographers to be seen and critiqued by their peers, fellow photographers. There is a real thirst for an honest critique."

The debate continued to the printed versus digital and Jassim Al Awadhi stated that "the times have changed, the printed books are good for now, but our children don't have the same feeling towards printed materials, since everything is digital now."

Panel 5: CSR Program


  • His Excellency Ali bin Thalith – HIPA Secretary General
  • Ernst Van der Poll

image 2015 HIPA Photo Forum, Panel 5 / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The HIPA Photo Forum ended with Ernst Van der Poll explaining the endeavours and plans concerning the Corporate Social Responsibility program and HE Ali bin Thalith concluded with the invitation for the fifth season of HIPA.

The Grand Prize for 5th Season of HIPA is $120,000 and an overall prize pool is $400,000. Submissions Open on March 21, 2015, Submissions Close on December 31, 2015 (Midnight). To register visit HIPA website.

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