Capturing a Dream

What drew you to photography? 

I was born in Sweden and later moved to Bangladesh, where I started preschool. After completing high school, I pursued a degree in Economics at the University of Manchester. This academic journey eventually led me into the banking industry, taking me from London to Norway and then Canada. However, despite the opportunities it provided, I felt unfulfilled in the world of banking. Photography has always played a significant role in my life. When I was around ten years old, one of my father’s friends bought me my first film camera and the first photo I ever took was of him. Over the years, I became the unofficial photographer for family events and gatherings. While studying in Manchester, I took on various part-time photography jobs, which allowed me to refine my skills and deepen my love for the craft. As my passion for photography continued to grow, I decided to create an Instagram account to share my work. To my surprise, it began to gain traction, opening up more opportunities. One request came from a woman who wanted me to shoot for her jewellery brand. I chose to be honest with her, expressing my passion for the craft while also acknowledging my lack of experience in professional photography. However, she happily decided to give me a chance. Another early breakthrough came when a yoga instructor, who was planning to pursue modelling, stumbled upon my Instagram account, even though it barely had any content at the time. She expressed interest in having me take photos for her portfolio. We booked a studio, and although I had limited experience in that environment, I committed myself to learning through extensive research and watching YouTube tutorials. These were the first pieces of content I started sharing on social media as part of my photography work.

Since then, I have collaborated with many aspiring models who have found comfort in working with me to build their portfolios. As my Instagram following grew, my work attracted attention and I became one of the regular photographers in Toronto, Montreal, and occasionally London, shooting photographs for fashion brands and portfolios of models represented by renowned agencies. I have also been featured in prestigious publications such as GQ and Vogue. This recognition has opened doors for me to participate in esteemed events such as London, Paris, Toronto, and Milan Fashion Weeks.

How do you bring your creative visions to life for photoshoots?

As a fashion photographer, my expertise lies in skincare, jewellery, beauty products, swimwear, and lingerie. I have a minimalistic and understated photographic style. When planning a shoot, I focus on three key elements: location, concept, and model. The location serves as the backdrop, whether it’s an outdoor environment or a controlled studio setting. Sometimes, I start by brainstorming the concept, considering the message I want to convey and the overall aesthetic I aim to achieve. Other times, I plan the shoot based on the model. I prefer to keep things simple, allowing the model’s natural elegance and distinctive facial features to shine. I’ve had the pleasure of working with close friends and tailoring shoots to complement their unique looks. One friend of mine, who has a rich blend of Caribbean, Brown, and Caucasian heritages, possesses striking features such as light skin, curly hair, light eyes, and full lips. I am always thrilled to collaborate with her and plan a shoot that accentuates her distinctive appearance.

My goal is to excel in my profession and become the best version of myself as a fashion photographer.

In your experience as a professional photographer, what major challenges have you encountered?

I would say there are two significant challenges for anyone starting a career in fashion photography or any freelance work. The first challenge is financial instability, and the second is developing taste and staying relevant in the ever-evolving fashion industry. To tackle the first challenge, fortunately, I had some savings from my previous banking job, which provided a safety net as I pursued my passion for photography. It takes time and patience to establish a stable source of income in this field; success does not come instantly. To tackle the second challenge, I am always critical of my own work. While self-critique can drive improvement, some believe that everything they produce is exceptional. This level of confidence can be beneficial at times, but it can be detrimental if it leads to complacency and a resistance to self-improvement. It is crucial to strike a balance and maintain the drive to reinvent and challenge oneself. In my own experience, the techniques I used for editing, colour grading, and retouching photographs a decade ago have significantly evolved, and I had to constantly observe, learn, and evolve with the trends. Nowadays, advancements in technology have allowed people to create remarkable images using just their cell phone cameras. As photographers, it is vital to stay current and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the field in order to avoid losing relevance and perspective.

Congratulations on landing a photoshoot with Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam. How did that collaboration come about? 

Having established myself as an international photographer, I am acquainted with many individuals at major publications across the globe. I wanted to collaborate exclusively with Harper’s Bazaar on a shoot focusing on minimal, understated fashion. However, doubts about my readiness held me back for a while. The pandemic only complicated things further, slowing down my photography assignments. Once I felt prepared, I approached Harper’s Bazaar and expressed my eagerness for a shoot. They challenged me to come up with a concept that was boundaryless and inclusive. I worked with a talented and diverse team for this shoot. The model, Alejandra Cuero, originally from Colombia, travelled to Dubai specifically for it. The makeup artist, Gigi Gill, brought her unique perspective as an individual of Indian heritage, born and raised in England. The creative director and stylist, Omar, is of Egyptian heritage and greatly supported me in bringing out the subtle, minimal yet glamorous characteristics in our styles.

Looking back on your career, what distinguishes the Harper’s Bazaar photoshoot in terms of personal significance?

Although I have extensively worked in North America and have previously been featured in international publications, having the Harper’s Bazaar shoot published while I was in Bangladesh made the experience even more special. Since then, many content creators, photographers, and makeup artists have reached out with questions about the technical aspects of the shoot. I have made it a priority to engage in thoughtful conversations with each of them, providing detailed answers to their inquiries, even if it took several days to respond. I have received thousands of messages of encouragement, which was truly humbling. At this stage of my photography career, it can be challenging to avoid stagnation and continue pushing creative boundaries. I constantly question how to redefine my work and reinvent myself. In this context, the outpouring of love I received for this shoot served as a significant source of motivation. Moreover, it offered valuable technical insights into styling and formatting. I switched to a modern mirrorless Canon camera and acquired new editing techniques to avoid repeating my established style. As I look forward to my upcoming shoots in New York, Los Angeles, and New Zealand, I am filled with excitement. My goal is to excel in my profession and become the best version of myself as a fashion photographer. Photography has always brought me joy and a sense of purpose. I hope to leave a lasting legacy, celebrating my passion for this art form and making a significant impact as a highly regarded and accomplished photographer.

Photograph: Sharif Ahmed