If you’re reading this, it’s already too late; you missed GPP Photo Week 2018. The event, hosted by Gulf Photo Plus since 2004, is the longest-running international photo event in the region. This year, it was hosted in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s “premier art and culture hub.” Its aim, according to their website is to be “a place where everyone can engage, regardless of skill level and area of interest.”

However, you can still get a sneak peek at one of the conference’s most exciting events: “The ShootOut.” Here’s how it works:

  • Three photographers, in front of a crowd of thousands, have twenty minutes to shoot and process the best image they can.
  • Their subject, this year a local musician, is kept secret from the artists’ until their time to shoot arrives.
  • Their gear is limited in the spirit of, as one contestant laments, those cooking shows where they “take all your ingredients away and you have to use gummy bears to make pasta.”

After the allotted time, and once the other contestants have gone, too, the audience decides a winner through the strength of their applause.

This years’ choice of contestants added an extra layer of intrigue. Along with Nick Fancher, a Columbus, Ohio-based portrait photographer known for his use of bold colors and experimental techniques, was both Zack Arias—a longtime GPP participant—and his son, Caleb. (Sidenote, the dude is like 19.)

Zack [Image Courtesy GPP]

Caleb [Image Courtesy GPP]

Nick [Image Courtesy GPP]

Along with the excitement of spontaneous creativity and the thrill of competition, the event is noteworthy for the peek into others’ minds which it allows. The impossibility of preparation (unknown subject, unknown constraints) leads to out-of-the-box thinking happening right in front of crowds of thousands as they watch the gears turn in these creators’ heads. Even frustration makes an appearance: “What do you mean you can’t use V-flats?” complains Caleb at one point.

The final images differ widely—reflecting their creators’ unique strengths—and remind one that even in an identical setting, with identical gear, and an identical subject, the possibilities for making something unique remain endless. There’s simply no excuse for a lack of ingenuity.


Find Nick Fancher here,

Caleb Arias here, 

and Zack Arias here