Winners of the Competition “The Place I Call Home”


Date: Sunday 31 May, 2020 - Tuesday 30 Jun, 2020
Time: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
Venue: Online, Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba, Block (E), United Arab Emirates

A jury comprising of members of the British Council, Ffotogallery and Maraya Art Centre has nominated the following participants as winners of the photography competition “The Place I Call Home”:

Kristin Soghmonyan, 21 year old Armenian living in Sharjah, studying Digital Production and Story telling in the American University in Dubai.

“I took the picture from my bedroom window which overlooks Al Wahda street and a bridge. I used the glass ball to show the world in an upside down perspective especially because of this pandemic it helped me see things in a different way. As well as how everything seems normal yet the reflection of the glass ball makes us realize we all have our ups and downs. I tried to show the streets of Sharjah from my window using the glass ball to add depth to the picture and how reflections are important because not everyone sees things the way we do. For example if I say a “tree” everyone thinks of a different tree but never the same.”

“The Jury concluded that this photograph draws upon complex themes with a supposedly simple arrangement – a glass ball that shows the outside world upside down, that could not be more illustrative of the current situation during the current Covid-19 Pandemic. This meaningful composition, alongside its other interpretation during nighttime, has convinced the Jury with its sincere attempt to create a universal message of societal reflection and introspection from an individual’s perspective.”

Smahane Drissi, aka “Smahane Art”, a painter and designer by training, with a big passion for photography as it has been an indispensable expressive tool throughout her career:

“This picture has been taken home. I got inspired by the inner monologues that I had during lockdown. The importance of seeing my reflection and connecting with my innermost thoughts had been of the utmost importance during this period. I wanted to represent the fragility of humans by using a man made of paper. Connected to his reflection in the mirror, this frail being is watching his image in all transparency; in an attempt to see his strength and colors shine through. Self-isolation has been an opportunity to reflect on myself through creativity. I tried to channel my feelings through my artwork including the photo “Home is where you see yourself” that I am participating with. There were moments of extreme solitude where inner reflection was the only way to connect, this time, within.”

“The Jury has awarded this photograph for its take on reflecting upon oneself during lockdown, within one’s own four walls. However, “home” in this photograph seems to stand in for another place, an “inner home”, that allows an individual to be seen the way they are, free from any acting or need for self-representation in front of others. The photography shows at the same time great vulnerability as well as great strength, both key ingredients for creating meaningful, conscious work of oneself and the world we live in.” 

Michael Brown, an environment and sustainability consultant in Abu Dhabi and active amateur photographer, originating from the Marlborough region of New Zealand and resident in the UAE since 2013:

“The photo was taken in the Liwa desert (Rub’ al Khali) in Abu Dhabi Emirate. I was camping in the sand dunes with some friends. The globe is actually a stress ball I kept in my vehicle at the time. I came up with the idea to place it on top of a sand dune to create a unique color contrast image and an abstract style photo.

At the time when I took this photo (2013) I thought the photo would create unique color contrasts. Before taking the photo, I was also reminded of an old saying that goes something along the lines of – ‘for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10 times more stars in space’. There were a few different ideas flying around in my head before taking this photo. Perhaps it was the result of camping in the dunes the night before, staring up at the stars and wondering how many other planets there must be if all we can see are the stars they secretly orbit.

The photo took on yet another meaning for me in 2020 with COVID-19 lockdown in the UAE, whereby I feel now more than ever that the image has some strange relevance for me – the planet / connected world which we all call home, has become one of isolation.”

“The Jury concluded that this photograph, with its double meaning of reflecting on our planet as a place within an interconnected universe and – during the current crisis – becoming a place of isolation, has opened up new ways of thinking about ourselves in a truly universal context. We all are battling with the current situation and reflecting upon where we stand together as humans in the context of this pandemic as well as our existential need to protect ourselves and our earth for future generations, is more prevalent than ever.” 

A bank employee, software developer, student and photographer, Pakistani Usman Choudhry, based in Kuwait, said this about his photograph:

“The photo was taken in Salmiya. Salmiya is a city area in Hawalli Governorate in the State of Kuwait. The story behind this photograph? I was just stuck on traffic signal. I wanted to show the life of an expat in quarantine, with the fear of losing everything. Self-isolation in the current time means to me care, understanding and support of others, but at some stage, self-isolation also gives you an opportunity to reschedule and re-plan the purpose of your existence. Now, life is getting back in Kuwait, Alhamdulillah. But I had an opportunity to think again during this pause about how Allah has blessed us with all the things around us.”

“The Jury felt touched by this striking black and white photograph of a man peering out of a window contemplating life outside while at the same time being captured within a place that is his home – for how long, no one knows. The socio-economic circumstances and privilege of having enough living space is something we need to be aware about by acknowledging the hardship of self-isolation during this challenging time and, in future, working together on improving these living conditions.”