An international photography competition taking place next month aims, among other things, to capture and make available for free download hundreds images of modern and ancient heritage sites in Israel.

The event in Israel, which will span one month and include a wide variety of free events at local heritage sites as well as technical workshops in photography, is part of the global “Wiki Loves Monuments” photography competition that was launched last year and will take place in an additional 32 countries worldwide.

Last year’s event, which consisted of only 18 countries, yielded around 167,000 photos of cultural sites across Europe and this year’s expanded version, including Israel for the first time, hopes to supersede that and possibly even break a Guinness World Record for the largest photography competition.

“It’s very important that there are free photos on the Internet for people to download and use,” commented Deror Lin, project manager for the "Wiki Loves Monument” Competition Israel.

In Israel, the contest is being managed by a team of volunteers for the non-profit online encyclopedia, Wikimedia Israel, in cooperation with the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites and with sponsorship of the Israel Internet Association, ISOC, Google Israel, the Galitz School of Photography and Project PikiWiki.

Lin explained that another underlying aim of the competition, at least locally, is to teach the Israeli public how easy it is to upload photographs. All images submitted for the competition will be posted on to the Wikimedia Commons Israel heritage site, an Internet photo archive that hopes to provides free information and images to the public on more than 600 physical sites in Israel.

He said that there are very few photographs of Israeli heritage sites currently available online and most feature the country’s more ancient historical landmarks.

There is little visual documentation of buildings and places relating to more modern Zionist history and the creation of the State of Israel.

Asked whether building up an online archive of Israeli heritage sites could become a political statement or cause friction with the Palestinian population in certain areas such as East Jerusalem or the Old City, Lin responded that the goal of the competition was to purely draw attention to local heritage and provide free images for online use.

“The main goal is that we find photos of these places and put them online so that anyone can use them,” said Lin.

He highlighted that included among the 600 buildings now listed on the Wikimedia Commons Israel site for use in the competition are numerous Ottoman-built structures, many religious buildings such as churches and mosques and as well as listed buildings in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Jaffa.

The competition runs September 14 through October 14. Any photographs submitted will be freely licensed as Creative Commons, allowing the public to use the pictures free of charge as long as the photographer is credited.

A special team of professional Israeli photographers will then judge all the images and chose 10 to be put forward for the global part of the competition.

The best local photos will also win cash prizes of up to NIS 5,000.

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