Spotlight Interview … Photographer Fayyaz Ahmed

JRP: Fayyaz Ahmed is a professional photographer based in Karachi, Pakistan. He has a formidable gallery of documentary, fashion, and portrait images. I came across Fayyaz and his work on Flickr and wanted to share his work with all of you.

Thanks Fayyaz for taking time out to answer some questions and share your experience with JRP Blog.

Fayyaz Ahmed: Thanks James, I am honored to participate. It feels great to be representing Pakistan here. I am a fashion and portrait photographer who enjoys occasional documentary work. I hope I can share something useful to the readers here.

JRP: How did your interest in photography begin. Do you have any formal training?

Fayyaz Ahmed: A few years back when I didn’t even own a camera I started looking at my environment thinking how I could make interesting images if I had a camera. I would mentally click in my head. Later, I got myself a camera and the mental process got a canvas. It was in 2006 that I did my first shoot with my newly bought digital SLR, and since 2007 I have been working as a professional photogapher.

It’s funny that before becoming a photographer I used to enjoy the photos in different magazines and websites. I never gave any thought to the process which went behind them, and never could imagine that one day I would end up shooting them myself.

My education is as a computer engineer so I do not have any formal training in photography or the arts as such. I have taught myself primarily through introspection and secondarily through the internet and books.

JRP: I was watching an interview on CNN with Raghu Rai the famed Indian and Magnum photojournalist. One of Raghu Rai’s comments was that he has spent much of his life photographing things around him (meaning things in India). He felt that there is always something of interest right where you are if you are willing to look. Upon examination of your gallery I get the same feeling from your work.

Fayyaz Ahmed: Beauty is all around, and it is subjective. You just need a different perspective to appreciate the most mundane things. I think the ability to really look and observe is one of the most important skills a photographer can develop. Sometimes putting your mind in a state of void really helps you get rid of any preconceived notions about your subjects. It lets you come up with a fresh and invigorating visual of an apparently mundane subject.

JRP: What equipment would I find in your camera bag?

Fayyaz Ahmed: Rather basic gear as I believe in taking pride in brush-stroke rather than the brush. In my bag I would normally have a Nikon D80 with a Nikkor 17-55mm 2.8 on it. Sometimes a Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8. Nikon flashes SB800 and SB600. A Sekonic L-358 light meter. A radio trigger for studio strobes. Two 4GB SD cards.

JRP: What type of editing software do you use?

Fayyaz Ahmed: Most of my work is done on Nikon Capture NX. If I’m in the mood or if there’s any cloning or healing to be done then Photoshop comes into play.

JRP: You have a wonderful series of street portraits. How do you get your subjects to interact with you to get the results that you want?

Fayyaz Ahmed: I show them respect. I ask nicely and usually get their permission. I start a light conversation with them and keep getting close gradually to get more intimate shots.

JRP: I noticed that some of your work has been published. What is it like for a photographer in Pakistan to market their images?

Fayyaz Ahmed: Actually most of my work has been published as I shoot mostly editorials and adverts. Even the personal work ends up getting published. Usually some magazine or client requests the usage of it.

Pakistan is a growing economy and good photographers are needed. Marketing yourself can be tricky but if your work is good and different, people eventually start coming to you rather than you having to go to them.

JRP: What has been your most memorable or favorite photo to date?

Fayyaz Ahmed: Most favourite … hmm tough one. I think I haven’t shot my most favorite photo yet. My favorite photos are all in my head rather than in my archive. It’s the ones I haven’t shot that mean more to me than the ones I have shot. It’s those photos which are in my head that keep inspiring me to do better and stay on my toes.

The first editorial shoot I ever did was memorable on the basis of both subject matter and the effort I had to put in. It was a documentary shoot about the transexuals in Pakistan, who are commonly called Hijras.

Recently I shot a senior photographer. It was memorable because here I was in front of one of the photography icons of Pakistan, trying to do justice to him using the very art he himself is known for. Not to mention that I was attempting a rather tricky shot. I almost felt like I was trying to play guitar in front of Steve Vai. But the effort paid off as the shoot turned out pretty good and everybody loved it.

JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Fayyaz Ahmed: A photographer told me, “When you are shooting a portrait, you have to be quick or the subject becomes bored after a while”. I realize that it is important to be very fluent with your technique. You have to be specific about how you want to proceed with the shoot. You should not be struggling with things like lighting, exposure, and props when you are photographing a person. As the shoot progresses you might be able to get a technically better photograph but the expressions, and the freshness of it all will be totally gone. People photographs are foremost about emotions, everything else comes later.

JRP: What advice would you give a young photographer starting out?

Fayyaz Ahmed: Don’t take photos, make photos. These days anybody can be a photo taker but the challenge is in being a photo maker. Think like a director and not like a shutter-release button. Set higher benchmarks for yourself, and put your heart and soul into achieving those benchmarks. Don’t do it to earn a quick buck, but do it if you are really passionate about it. There will be ups and downs. Have you ever ridden a roller coaster and absolutely loved it? Yes? Then this can be the career for you!

JRP: Thanks Fayyaz for sharing your thoughts and photography with us. It has been a real pleasure talking with you.

Fayyaz Ahmed: Thanks a lot James, it was a pleasure and honor sharing my thoughts with you and the readers.

JRP: To view more of Fayyaz Ahmed’s fine photography please go to this link: http://flickr.com/photos/fayyaz

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12 thoughts on “Spotlight Interview … Photographer Fayyaz Ahmed

  1. A good interview of my favorite photographer. I really agree with him, it’s all in the head. Anybody can be a photographer with a click, but giving it meaning is whole new different ball game. Thank you for the interview.

  2. Fayyaz is a total rockstar.
    Thanks for interviewing him, James! Although I know him through flickr and have long admired his work, I never got around to asking him any of these questions. Really enjoyed reading about his approach to photography here.

  3. Fayyaz is an inspiration for all those people who think they ‘can’t’ because they have no formal training or a list of ‘who’s who’ contacts to back them… he learnt everything he knows through magazines, online guidance and sheer dedication. I sometimes think he is going to be as best as he is right now but then he delivers something that blows my mind and i rethink…. this new kid on the block has years ahead of him to astound, stir and WOW people around the globe. His portraits, especially of the comman man from the streets of Pakistan continue to astound me. Great work Fayyaz and all the very best, may you have a picture perfect life of photography ahead of you.

  4. Passionate Perfectionist Pakistani

    It is quite amazing how Fayyaz has grown from being a little known talented photosnapper to one of the best portrait photographers that exist on the Pakistani fashion scene. Very few people probably cannot even see the dedication, the passion and a maddening will to learn something new that drives this star.

    Going through his gallery, its hard not to reaslise that a lot of thought process and planning has gone into every single shot, be it a candle lit snap of a girl checking her reflection in a mirror, or an apparently candid snap of someone sitting in a spiralling staircase. He plans and captures so well that its you dont even notice the ‘calculation’, everything appers real and natural.

    Thanks to his talent of seeing his photos before he hits the shutter, he continues to deliver snaps that bear little resemblance to his last series. Its always something new , its always soemthing better. I wonder where it’ll stop if it ever does.

    I still remember a conversation with him 2 years ago when he expressed great disappointment in a fellow photographer who had a gallery with hundreds of stunning jaw dropping photos that were virtually identical products of a formula. Fayyaz serves a new dish on his dinning table every night.

    I can’t hope and pray enough for this humble wee gentleman to become one of the biggest names in Pakistan’s industry. Fortunately for me, he has promised to do a ‘session’ for me some day …

    All the best to you Fayyaz, keep the good stuff coming.

  5. James, thank you so much for sharing this interview which was both enlightening and inspiring. It’s so refreshing to hear about dedicated and self made individuals who are truly passionate about their work and subjects.

    I know Fayyaz and his fabulous work through the world of flickr and I’m forever blown away by the images he produces. When I think his work can’t get any better, he throws me again! His work is both visually exciting and truly unique. At such an early stage in his career, he has a distinct style; you know a ‘Fayyaz’ when you see one! If you ask me, he is unrivaled; leaps and bounds ahead of the game of photography in Pakistan, and maybe he has actually spiced up the competition a little too!

    As a photographer myself I am left in awe, wondering how on earth he manages it time and time again! I hope one day that I get the opportunity to assist him and watch the master at work! So well done Fayyaz and please, please, keep the images coming!

  6. Fayyaz Ahmed is probably the most sought after photographer for Fashion & cover shoots in the local print media.

    I myself came across him when I was interviewed for a leading local Magazine, which Fayyaz Ahmed was officially covering.

    Professionally speaking I am a musician, but I am also an enthusiast photographer, a hobby which I acquired from my father at a very early age.

    I was tremendously impressed by Fayyaz’s photography of myself, & at the same meeting, I realized that Fayyaz has a passion for playing guitar as well, & in fact he playes the guitar really well.

    Since then we have become good friends & whenever we get together we sometimes Jam & then share our exploits in photography, which ofcourse is very beneficial for me as a photography enthusiast.

    I have learnt a lot from Fayyaz, he always gives me sound advice on upgrading my camera & lenses & most of all, how to make a great photo.

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