Two Vietnamese artists who have both won prizes at an emerging photography competition held annually in Dubai, have shared with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper their memorable trips to claim the awards in the lavish city of the United Arab Emirates.
With a view to demonstrating Dubai’s commitment to encouraging and supporting art, culture, and innovation, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum founded the Hamdan International Photography Award (HIPA), according to its website.
The award was presented for the first time in 2011-12.
It appeals to all photographers across the globe, and also nurtures national talent, which has attracted international art and cultural attention.
The opulent city of Dubai currently holds some world records, including the tallest building in the world title captured by Burj Khalifa.
Its HIPA photography contest also makes heads turn for its whopping prizes.
The prizes total US$400,000, which is the world’s largest for any photography contest so far.
The winner of the HIPA grand prize walks home with a cash award of $120,000.
The less significant prizes vary between $7,000 and $15,000, and these prize owners are all entitled to a free, worthwhile trip to Dubai to claim their prizes.
Two Vietnamese artists have won HIPA prizes to date.
In mid-March this year, Nguyen Minh Tan, an artist from Ho Chi Minh City, claimed the third prize in the contest’s “Night Photography” Category and won a cash award of $10,000.
In 2012, Le Duy Hoang, Tan’s colleague from the south-central province of Binh Thuan, also captured the third prize in the HIPA’s “Black & White” Category and brought home $8,000 in cash.
Both were treated to sumptuous trips to Dubai, where they attended the award presentation ceremonies.
The luxuries which the two Vietnamese artists were entitled to included business-class lie-flat seats with the Emirates airline, stays in five-star hotels, and rides in Mercedes S500 cars.
They were provided with their own interpreters during the HIPA award presentation ceremonies.
Tan told Tuoi Tre that the prize winners were kept in the dark about which honors they would claim, and joined a prize-presenting rehearsal held at the Dubai water music amphitheater, which is also the world’s largest.
Indian and Pakistani laureates typically don their traditional outfits, while others look presentable in their suits and ties, as required by the organizer.
Tan divulged that before claiming his prize, he thought that such a deserving trip sufficed well beyond his expectations, no matter which prize he would receive.
Tan and Hoang also had their unforgettable, bitter-sweet taste of Dubai’s costly life.
Tan said he paid 300 dirham ($84) for a tour of the Burj Khalifa tower, adding it took the elevator there only one minute to ascend to the observation deck on the 124th floor of this 829.8m 163-floor structure.
Meanwhile, Hoang and his two Chinese and German fellow prize winners paid a total of $500 for a ride to Dubai Market to take photos of camels.
Hoang revealed that the costly trip put him off exploring Dubai and he just stayed in his hotel room until he left for Vietnam.
He also recounted his priceless royal memory during the trip.
While he was mingling with two Chinese and German colleagues prior to the award-presentation ceremony, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum approached him and asked who he is, without paying attention to the two other photographers.
“Right after being told I’m Vietnamese, the Sheikh insisted I pose with him for a photo. He kept giving me smiles. I think he must have certain adoration for Vietnamese people,” Hoang added.
Vietnamese artists now scramble to partake in the HIPA competition, and so do their colleagues the world over.
The number of HIPA entries in 2014-2015 soared to 60,162, submitted by 30,878 authors from 166 countries and territories, compared to the 38,203 entries by 26,006 authors hailing from 156 countries and territories in 2013-2014.
Nguyen Minh Tan’s winning work at the 2014-2015 HIPA
Nguyen Minh Tan’s winning work at the 2014-2015 HIPA depicts the Nguyen Van Cu-Tran Hung Dao Intersection in District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, at dusk.
The photo highlights traffic mayhem at the moment. “Several international journalists told me that they find my photo intriguing as it gives them an impression that motorbike traffic in Vietnam is spiraling out of control,” Tan revealed.
Local artists are generally honored at international photography contests for their photos featuring girls in “ao dai” (traditional Vietnamese long gowns) and “non la” (conical leaf hats), sand dunes, and ethnic people.