What’s the common thread in all of the creative fields you pursue?
If you look at my photography, books and film projects, storytelling that is of a specific raw authentic style is the common thread. I work with different media and wear many hats within the creative industry but photography is at the centre of everything I do.
Why does a lot of your work revolve around athletes and adventure?
I love sports and I’ve done triathlons and Ironman challenges. I’m also a long distance runner — I’ve run 250km through Patagonia, through China, did a 170km race through the Alps in September. It’s important for me to connect and bond with the people I work with and I’m able to achieve that with athletes because I understand them and I know what makes a powerful photo.
Which of these projects gave you the most satisfaction?
Curiosity series, the film series, sits high on the list. I also generally love anything that tells a good adventure story. Last year I photographed Khalid Al Suwaidi, an Emirati who ran from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi. I came on board as both a photographer and an advisor who could help him get to the finish thanks to my ultra-running background. Being part of the journey of a non-runner who runs 300-odd kilometres in four days and seeing their drive and passion to complete that journey gave me great satisfaction.
What were you doing before you decided to pursue photography full-time?
I used to be a professional outdoor instructor, then I moved into hospitality and worked at the Burj Al Arab. Later while working as the experiential manager for Land Rover and Jaguar, I developed a portfolio of imagery. Eventually, in 2007 after moving from marketing to sales, I realised I don’t enjoy the paperwork and politics , so I decided to trade my suits for sneakers, sold the house, left the corporate world and pursued photography without any formal training. Now 12 years later, it’s all kind of worked out. You never know where things lead to.
Is this a message you try to convey through your book, 1975: Connecting the dots?
Yes, it’s a reflective summary, a recap of the work I’ve done but for people who potentially want to take the plunge into the creative industry but are intimidated to leave the comfortable bubble of a full-time job. I trace how examples of great opportunities such as working on a British Airways campaign featuring Margot Robbie and working with the Tourism Authority of Abu Dhabi during the Abu Dhabi Golf Challenge, happened due to a trail of other assignments and events. Getting your work out there to clients you want to work for is intense and there’s a lot of knocking on doors.
What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Travel. I would embrace every opportunity to travel, whether its trips to empty, faraway places in the wilderness of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia or trips to cities like Hong Kong and New York. I also spend one week in pure isolation in nature disconnected from the rest of the world: no phone, no email, no social media. I get a lot of good ideas when I’m away and I come back as a better dad and husband.
Complete isolation? What’s that about?
I call it Project Pause and is based on three pillars — it’s about spending time out in nature on your own where you switch off, disengage from the digital rat race. The idea for Project Pause came to me on a flight and I looked down on the empty World Islands and wondered wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have one of these islands for a week to camp in? I couldn’t get an island, so I went to Liwa, to the Empty Quarter and it was a great adventure where I’d read, run, and be on my own. Now, I do it every year recording each trip and inspiring others to do so too.
What were the joys and challenges of working on the Falcons of Arabia coffee table book?
I discovered that falcons are a lot like humans in front of the camera — some get really comfortable and, others just want to get done. I would set up a mini studio on location, bring a falcon in and some birds would just not have it. Others would parade and show off their feathers. That was an eye-opener to me, that there’s a lot of character in birds.
The project commissioned by the Professional Sports Group in Abu Dhabi was about bringing these character out. It’s one of those projects where we wanted to tell the true story of Emirati falconry by becoming a part of the inner circle of falconers and candidly shooting images without manipulating light or backdrop, which is why it took two and a half years to produce.
What’s your motto when it comes to work?
Some people say you’ve got to fake it until you make it. I go the other way around and say you’ve got to prove it to do it — no one’s going to hire you for a big shoot and take a gamble unless you show them your calibre through personal projects. A lot of my personal work has led to a commissioned work — a good example is my film series called ‘Curiosity Series’ — a five-minute piece each on five athletes that tells their story with no brands involved. Brands loved the unscripted style of my story-telling and wanted me to do the same for them.