Five emerging photographers from across the Middle East shared a Dh36,730 cash prize last week at the Ayyam Gallery in Dubai.
Following an open call in April for applicants born after 1980 and not currently represented by an art gallery, 150 responses from emerging photographers came in.
Khaled Samawi, Ayyam's founder, and the managing partner Hisham Samawi narrowed this pool down to 15 artists, who were each given wall space for 24 hours in the gallery. Industry insiders were invited in to decide the top five.
"The intention behind this competition was to find new artists for us to represent," says Hisham Samawi. "It's good to get new blood and find a new generation of talent."
First place went to Ad Achkar, a recent graduate who found abandoned houses around Beirut and brought them back to life with discarded objects he sourced from friends in the city. "I collected everything and anything they would give me," said Achkar. "Putting these objects into the rooms brought something human back to them."
The winning series, God Bless Our Home, illustrates the contrast between the desolation of these once-stunning colonial and pre-colonial-era rooms when Achkar found them and the effect of arranging the city's cast-offs inside. Achkar's images capture a subtle yet stirring aura of presence.
"Achkar's was the most well-rounded show," says Samawi. "Each of the five winners had a clear concept, and I think the judges appreciated that."
Several of these artists will feature in the gallery's next Young Collector's Auction to be held in its Al Quoz space on January 17.