It may be a fairly young group, born out of a need to provide Emirates staff with respite from their stressful jobs, but the Emirates Group Photography Club (EGPC) is built on so much more.
With members from different nationalities and cultures, EGPC abides by the simple motto of the world famous photographer Aaron Siskind: “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever; it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
The slogan epitomises EGPC and its work in the United Arab Emirates since its formation in 2007. Its founding member, Ronald Awa, saw an opportunity to start a small hobby for employees of Emirates Airlines Group as a way to connect with other departments, in addition to finding an outlet from their hectic schedules. The momentum was initially slow, until 2008 when the club shifted into a different gear when SanDisk, global leaders in flash technology, came on board as an official sponsor.
“When SanDisk expressed interest in our club and agreed to sponsor us, it was a game changer,” said Awa. “Before that we were a small club with sporadic meetings and no formal structure. Many of our members lacked motivation. But SanDisk gave us the boost that we needed to become a photography club with some clout,” Awa added.
Today with over 1,000 active members, including pilots, cabin crew, academics, engineers, IT managers, EGPC is among the region’s most proactive photography clubs. The club has transformed itself into a fiercely talented organisation, with an emphasis on training its members and challenging them to think out of the box.
SanDisk has been driving the training, with over 100 members – including spouses – gaining skills and technical expertise. Each month EGPC conducts about three training sessions with SanDisk – varying between basic and advanced training. The result: a team of well-trained photographers with the ability to witness their passion grow.
“We love the fact that over the past few years SanDisk has enabled us to grow our technical abilities and ignite our passion for photography. It’s so ingrained in us that we don’t mind sacrificing our time to participate in various charitable events across the region,” continued Awa. Over the years, SanDisk has provided EGPC with training, workshops, branded gear and some of the latest products. “As photographers we can now concentrate on taking quality photographs and enjoying our craft because everything else is taken care of,” said Awa.
The club recently started a new initiative, ‘Face Club’, encouraging its cabin crew members to create a photo diary of all the interesting countries they visit and upload it to their website. The only requirement is that each image must have a human face in it. “It’s all part of the ‘engagement and the love of photography and people’,” insisted Awa.
Last year the club participated at the Airline Sports Cultural Association (ASCA) in Vienna, Austria in a two-day photo contest, pitting international airline photography clubs against each other. British Airways, Lufthansa, Austrian Airways and several other prominent names went head to head with each other. EGPC scooped the top spot, and will defend their title later this year.
“It has been great to see EGPC grow into a formidable photography club in the region,” said Bradley Bennett, regional marketing manager, SanDisk Mediterranean, Middle East & Africa. “We are encouraged by their determination and have been privileged to be part of this journey with them. SanDisk Middle East looks forward to continuing this partnership to grow people who are passionate about photography,” Bradley added.