HIPA looks to the future

On Monday 17 March, photographer Fuyang Zhou became $120,000 richer. The Chinese enthusiast photographer is the recipient of the Grand Prize at the third Hamdan International Photography Awards (HIPA). The top prize is awarded to a photographer for a single photograph.

As reported by BJP live from Dubai where the ceremony took place this week, HIPA awarded cash prizes totalling $389,000 to 17 photographers. The winners came from all over the world.

Speaking to BJP after his win, Zhou, who is from Jiang Xi province in southern China, spoke of his delight at winning the top prize, and told a little about how he came to take his winning image.


“I took the picture last October at one of the most ancient places in China – the Da Lian San district in Si Chuan province, central China. Some of the people who live there are very poor but they work hard and make great efforts to improve their life. I went there because it’s a simple place and the countryside is very beautiful.”

The 54-year-old photographer, who first picked up a camera as a young child, entered the image in one of HIPA’s four categories, Creating the Future.

“Photography is not my profession,” Zhou told BJP in Dubai. “It’s my hobby and the most beautiful thing in my life. I like to photograph rural areas – places that reflect peoples’ lives. Winning this award will enable me to continue travelling the world to take pictures.”

Among the other winners is China’s Yanan Li who won first prize in the Black and White category ($16,000) with an image of a family who live in a slum in Islamabad, Pakistan.

“I came across an adobe house and saw a family eating lunch,” says Li. “They were sitting on a bed – the only piece of furniture in their home. The family kindly invited me to have lunch with them. Although we could only communicate through body language, I was touched by their kindness and optimism.”

Nine judges sifted through some 20,000 images over ten days, says jury member Susan Baraz who co-chairs The Lucie Awards, and is head of judging at the International Photography Awards in Los Angeles. 

“I was looking for images that were soulful, and that spoke to me,” Baraz told BJP in Dubai. “But what speaks to me may not speak to someone else. That’s what is so beautiful about photography… HIPA is very passionate about photography.”

The judging panel also included Cheryl Newman, director of photography at The Telegraph, Jon Jones, photographer and director of photography at The Sunday Times Magazine,  Caroline Metcalfe, director of photography at Conde Nast Traveller magazine, and Hossain Mahdavi, a photographer and former President and Chairman of the Master Photographers Association (MPA).

Mahdavi told BJP how three sets of judges scrutinised and scored images using iPads. “Each jury member gave their scores and the top scoring images went through to the next stage of the competition. These were discussed by the nine-strong jury and the winners were chosen. It was important that the category themes came across in the images, but we weren’t looking for anything specific [outside of] image quality, composition, impact, and execution.

“I love that HIPA has created a competition for photographers,” Mahdavi continues. “It isn’t doing this for money. The way I see it, the competition encourages photographers to get involved and to strive to become better. In the future I’d like to see more categories, which would benefit photographers who take different types of images. Portrait, landscape, and architectural photographs are different and can’t compete against each other.”

A book, Creating the Future, published by HIPA, and showing all the winning images plus a selection of submitted entries from the 2013-14 season, is available from the HIPA website: https://www.hipa.ae