x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

#Sharjah1000 features insightful photographs of the emirate

#Sharjah1000 shows a collection of Instagram images taken of the emirate of Sharjah over the course of 30 days.

Visitors at the opening night of the #Sharjah1000 exhibition. Courtesy #Sharjah1000
Visitors at the opening night of the #Sharjah1000 exhibition. Courtesy #Sharjah1000

A bicycle leans against a wall down a littered alleyway. Men smoke shisha at a makeshift street-side cafe. Circus performers grin at the camera. A farmer coaxes his cow to feed. A solitary pair of shoes sits at the edge of the lapping ocean.

Viewing these images is like the daily scroll most of us make through a social media feed – and that is exactly the point.

These are just a few photographs in the #Sharjah1000 exhibition currently showing at Sharjah Art ­Foundation.

Conceived and organised by Reem Saeed, an Emirati who works as a corporate social responsibility manager in Dubai, the exhibition began as an idea simply to gather honest and varied images of the emirate from social media users over the course of one month.

Saeed, who is also a keen amateur photographer, decided to start the hashtag on Instagram and gauge the response.

“I noticed that there are a lot of enforced hashtags around the UAE so I wanted to create one with a certain direction for Sharjah specifically. And to make it more fun, I decided to make it a challenge – to gather 1,000 images in one month.”

Starting on March 30, it took only 19 days before she reached her target. By the time the month was up, she had more than 1,000 images sent in by 80 people. She edited the collection and approached Sharjah Art Foundation for an exhibition.

Once she got permission – in fact, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, the president of Sharjah Art Foundation, also has her personal images in the ­exhibition – Saeed started working with the foundation to select the best and most appropriate images for the exhibition, which opened in June.

“The idea was to showcase the beauty of Sharjah – the historical, the modern, the natural landscape to the city and the many different people that live here – and make a collage of them all together,” explains Saeed. “I was really happy with the results.”

Saeed, who is originally from Dubai, moved to Sharjah four years ago.

“I think it is really beautiful. I got sick of the skyscrapers of Dubai and I love how real it is here in Sharjah.”

Saeed is one of the 70 people whose photographs were chosen. Her contribution is a series of villages in the northern and eastern part of the emirate, showing the desert landscape and the natural flora and fauna.

“The goal was for it to be a kind of social project with an ‘art’ twist. I wanted to bring everyone from every sector, nationality and age group together through the medium of photography by using a simple and practical piece of equipment, which is the mobile phone.”

Bickey Basnet, a Nepali photo-grapher who has 12 images in the collection, says the exhibition is a brilliant concept. “Instagram is the quickest way of sharing a photo and when it’s done quickly, the ­photos shared are raw, which means it shows the real subject of the ­picture.”

The accountant, who has lived in Sharjah for almost two years, says it is a beautiful emirate both traditionally and in a modern context.

“It needs exposure to people from different parts of the world. This is the kind of project that does that.”

The Jordanian Rami Jaber, who is the acting director of corporate relations at the American University of Sharjah, was born and raised in the Emirate, and is one of the thousands of people the exhibition has attracted.

“Art is part of the identity of our city and this project showcases images that residents of Sharjah truly relate to,” says Jaber. “Whether it is a place or an object, visitors of the exhibition at the time I went were all trying to figure out which part of town, or object, was being displayed. Therefore, it depicts both a communal and very personal aspect of Sharjah from the perspective of its residents.”

With contributions from many amateurs, the show also contains images taken by prominent institutions and individuals. Shurooq, the Sharjah Investment & Development Authority, is one participant, as is the Al Qasba-based Maraya Art Centre.

“Everyone brought us a portrait of Sharjah through their own eyes and here they are gathered together in a physical exhibition, which has a very different effect to seeing them online,” says Saeed. “The project was a joy from the start to the finish.”

#Sharjah1000 runs until August 10 in Building H, SAF Art Spaces, ­Sharjah Heritage Area. Visit www.sharjahart.org

aseaman@thenational.ae