ALL WORK AND SOME PLAY
My weekends, just like my weekdays, are very unpredictable – there is no blueprint or schedule to my life now as a freelance photographer. I’m not bound by an office space or timings so I generally strive to accomplish the most I can out of each day. My weekends could be an early sunrise-chasing mission in the desert, a photowalk in old parts of Dubai or a nice breakfast with some friends. If I’m working on a project, I’ll stay in all weekend editing pictures. That said, I do enjoy going to the cinemas four or five times a month to unwind and watch a movie. I also love watching and playing football and once or twice a month I like to take a day off and do nothing but watch Netflix or hang out with my buddies.
POWER OF PICTURES
My parents used to photograph the four us growing up and compile them into massive albums that would transport me into those moments in time, every time I went through them. That was when I subconsciously began to love photography – I say subconsciousLY because I never imagined it as a profession. With the advent of mobile cameras, I started taking pictures of moments that made me stop, stare and go, ‘wow, that’s beautiful.’ Plus, I have an awful memory, so photography helps me remember better.
There are a few pictures I’ve taken of the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque that would aptly define my childhood fascination reading Arabian Nights and watching Aladdin growing up – I was born and raised in Dubai and moved to Chennai in 2004 to finish high school and university. I moved back to Dubai in 2014.
In 2015, after moving back to Dubai, I attended an Instagram meet that was the defining moment. I knew it meant something when I preferred waking up early to go on photowalks instead of late nights out with friends. Later, when people started offering me money to have their pictures taken I realized that I could make a living out of what I love doing. I absolutely loved the fact that you could make a fellow Instagrammer do just exactly what you want to create an image. The community of Instagrammers are now my closest friends.
The Dubai Mall had an activation during Ramadan called the 9Hijri, with nine zones across the mall promoting various arts and sciences that have originated from the region. They wanted to showcase the work of Arab or Muslim filmmakers from the region and chose my work – they liked the videos that I made and shared on my Instagram under the hashtag #gisbtervids. I was stoked and tremendously humbled to have had the opportunity.
As clichéd as it may sound I love shooting in the desert because there is something very mystical about the vast emptiness of it, and I love the colour and shapes of sand dunes. I prefer to shoot in natural light and outdoors, I hate shooting in studios.
I shoot on high continuous mode a lot, to capture as many frames per second when I shoot human subjects because it’s within those moments that you get real emotions. Photography has taught me that everyone, no matter their race, religious beliefs, stature, nationality or gender, stripped down to the basics, is the same: humans with emotions. That makes you want to treat everyone the same, with kindness and respect.
At the age of four, my aim in life was to be a garbage truck driver, because I was fascinated by the shape of the truck, the electronic noises it made, the flashing lights on top and the fact that the driver automatically controlled the unloading of the cans from his seat. For my sixth birthday, my mum made me a garbage truck cake with chocolates in the back as garbage. It was amazing!
Music is everything to me; it is the single biggest source of inspiration for my work, whether photographs or video. I like to listen to moody electronic music and gangster [rap] music. They’re very contradictory genres but those are my favourites. It’s hard to pick one song but if I had to, it would be Noise Above our Heads by James Blake. Or just about anything by James Blake, really.
I’m always down for chocolate. And coffee. Or a combination of the two, a mocha.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
You spend a third of your life sleeping – that’s a fact I picked up when I help my dad set up his mattress business in Chennai. We started a distribution company and I opened a luxury concept mattress retail store and three years later, one fine day, it hit me that home furnishing wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.
LAST TIME I SHOPPED…
… was when I upgraded my camera earlier this year and bought myself a drone. Most of my splurges are on photo/video equipment. Luckily, I don’t crave fancy things.
I haven’t travelled as much as I would have liked to, which is why it is one of my main missions this year to travel as much as possible. Morocco was an absolutely stunning country to both experience and photograph. Topping my list of places to visit next are New Zealand for the incredible landscapes and Japan because the people there seem super interesting and I’d like to experience that in person.
OUT OF THIS WORLD
If I had the chance to live a fictional character’s life I want to be Matthew McConaughey’s character from Interstellar – minus all the sad bits. I really want to experience interstellar space travel.
SAVED BY THE BOXER
UFC double champion boxer Conor McGregor’s success story is what helped me quit my job and gave me the courage to take up freelance photography. Conor was a plumber living on welfare when he decided that he would pursue what he was best at. I would watch documentaries of him every day and one of his quotes that really inspired me was ‘some people will critique it [his brash self-belief]. Others will be inspired from it. I can tell you one thing, the ones who take inspiration from it will come up and one day taste success like this, the others will remain where they are’. His story motivates me to not be complacent with partial success, but to go out there and be among the best in the world.