The Qatar-America Institute Celebrates End of First-Ever Qatar-America Photography Contest

 The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) hosts an awards reception and exhibition debut in honor of its first FOCI Photography Competition, highlighting the cultural and societal synergies between the United States and Qatar.


Washington, DC – February 12th, 2020: The Qatar America Institute (QAI) hosted an awards reception and the public unveiling of the exhibition for its 2019 FOCI Photography Competition at the DC Wharf. QAI is an independent cultural and educational nonprofit organization that facilitates dialogue, research, and cultural exchange between Qatar and the United States.

Oscar Rialubin – 1st Place; Zach Houghton – FOCI Judge; Noman Quadri – 2nd Place [left to right]

Following a three and half month submission period, resulting in over 1,200 submissions, QAI’s first-ever photography competition concluded at the Wharf Dockmaster Building.


In attendance at the reception were the First and Second Place winners of the contest, Oscar Rialubin, and Noman Quadri, respectively, who both reside in Doha. In honor of the event, QAI was excited to fly out the two winners from Doha so that they could be recognized for their achievement and receive their prizes in person. For Noman Quadri, an Indian engineer living in Doha, it was his first time ever to visit the United States.


Regarding the diverse backgrounds of the two winners and the honorable mentions, Fatima Al-Dosari, QAI’s Executive Director, remarked that “they embody the character of Doha as a melting pot. They are both from two of the largest communities within Qatar. One is from India, and one is from the Philippines. Doha is very diverse, and so their presence is representative of how Qatar is.”


FOCI Judge Shuran Huang provides remarks at the 2019 FOCI Awards Reception

Also present were two of the five judges of the competition, Zach Houghton and Shuran Huang. Zach Houghton is the founder of Passion Passport, a startup that provides inspirational and purpose-driven travel storytelling, develops photo and video content, and designs experiential campaigns for brands and tourism boards.


Shuran Huang, an award-winning photographer and photo editor based in DC who has worked with NPR, The New York Times, The New Yorker, among others.


“It’s always an honor to be brought in to offer your perspective as a photographer, as a creative, and shed light on work that has been produced especially for a competition like this,” said FOCI judge Zach Houghton. “I was inspired by a lot of the composition and the really clever use of light and different culture happenings that were happening in Qatar and how they were tied back to the US.”


The remaining three judges of the FOCI Competition, without which the contest would not have been possible, were unable to attend. Robert Landau, an LA-based photographer and author who is famous for his work on capturing the rock and roll billboards during the 70s and 80s and for his work on the PBS series “The Royal Tour”; Abeer Al-Kuwari, an award-winning multidisciplinary visual artist based in Qatar, and the first female member of the Qatar Photography Society; and Sara Al Obaidly, an award-winning photographer and videographer living between London and Doha, and the recipient of Grazia Arabia’s 2019 Artist of the Year Award.


Guests were greeted by a display of the ten winning photographs chosen by the competition judges that represented the 2019 FOCI Exhibition. The photos, all captured in Qatar, were submitted by a globally-diverse group of photographers who either resided or visited Qatar. The photographs, in accordance with the contest’s theme, captured a moment that they believed to depict the character of the US-Qatar relationship. Some of the photos displayed at the exhibition interpreted the theme using a bit of creative license. For example, a young boy straddling two Harley-Davidson motorcycles holding both American and Qatari flags. Whereas others were literal, depicting artist installations in and around Doha by American artists Richard Serra and Brian Donnelly (better known as KAWS).


One Journey, One Ride – Captured by Sujan Archibald


While the purpose of FOCI’s establishment is to celebrate the over four decades of partnership between the two nations, the many shared ties and achievements between the two communities, and the power of cross-cultural exchange, it also helps to show American audiences a very different perspective of Qatar –  and the Middle East in general – that wouldn’t otherwise be seen on other platforms. “What you know about Qatar is that it is the richest country in the world, and it is going to host the FIFA World Cup [in 2022],” remarked Second Place winner Noman Quadri as he received his award. “What you all don’t know is that Qatar is also rich in its diversity and its passion for arts and culture.”


Following the reception, the exhibition is currently stationed at QAI’s office in downtown Washington, DC, where it is open to visitor appointments before it makes its way to New York City, where it is to be exhibited briefly to the public.



The 2019 FOCI Photography Competition made possible thanks to the generous support of the Qatar National Tourism Council.