All you photographers out there, get your cameras out! Take pictures of historical monuments and win cool prizes.

Initiated in 2010 by local volunteers of Wikimedia, the force behind free encyclopaedia Wikipedia, in Netherlands, ‘Wiki Loves Monuments’ (WLM) is a photography competition that invites participants to submit as many photographs of national monuments as they want. In 2011, the competition expanded globally with around 35 more countries participating in it. This year is the first time Pakistan has entered the competition that began on Sept 1 and will run until the 30th. Until Saturday night 430 participants from Pakistan had uploaded more than 6,300 photographs.

Pakistan is home to several beautiful and historic monuments that have even drawn foreigners towards them. Hence, there could be no better opportunity for anyone with a camera to capture these sites through his/her lens and show the world what we’ve got.

“The purpose behind the competition is to gather photographs released under a free licence that enables their free use worldwide. The goal is to make knowledge available to the world for free, and since cultural heritage is part of knowledge, we want to gather and release to the world free, usable photographs of monuments,” said Saqib Qayyum, the lead coordinator of ‘Wiki Loves Monuments Pakistan’ and the authorised representative of Wikimedia affiliate here.

Over the years, WLM has grown exponentially. What started as a local contest by volunteers in the Netherlands in 2010 now boasts 37 countries that first hold national-level contests and then send in 10 nominations each for an international competition. Previous winners belonged to Switzerland (2013), India (2012), Romania (2011) and the Netherlands (2010).

This year so far, around 116,000 photographs have been submitted by more than 4,000 participants from 37 countries, with Pakistan being the sixth biggest contributor.

“It’s all volunteer-led and non-profit. India won the competition in 2012, the year it entered. Pakistan is the third South Asian country to participate in WLM after India and Nepal. We want Pakistan to win this time, so we’re calling on all photography enthusiasts here to participate as much as possible,” said Qayyum, who is also a volunteer editor at Wikivoyage, the sister project of Wikipedia, where he writes on Pakistani destinations.

Since the competition started four years ago, over a million photos of historic sites have been uploaded for free use by anybody so long as the photographer is credited. Local Wikipedia volunteers organise the contest in each country every year.

Wikimedia has also developed a free WLM mobile app for Android smartphone users. Participants can use the app to upload photos directly from their cell phones. The app also displays historic sites nearby.

All local WLM competitions will end on Sept 30 at midnight after which each local jury – comprising professional photographers and experts -- will nominate top 10 pictures for the international leg of the contest. According to Qayyum, local winners will be announced in November with the first prize being Rs20,000, second Rs15,000, third Rs10,000, fourth and fifth Rs5,000 each as well as many non-cash prizes, such as cameras and merchandise, from sponsors.

The international jury will announce winners by Dec 15 with the first prize being a trip to Mexico City in June 2015 for Wikimania.

Published in Dawn, September 21th, 2014



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