Interview :: 3Nines Arts / by Mohammed Ismail

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Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview for our new arts initiative.

Here with a couple of questions for you but please feel free to add anything you might want to. You can be as elaborate as you want on your answers!

From which age or happening did you start having an interest in photography?

Since a very young age, I’ve had a deep passion for the natural world. Having the ability to capture moments from it was an intriguing concept for me. I would watch documentary after documentary and be fascinated by both, the natural world that God had created, as well as the art of capturing these wondrous moments.

Who do you greatly admire in the photographic arena and in other areas of the arts?

Where to begin?!

I came across Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work very early on. He is sometimes credited as the father of the street photography genre, an area I take much interest in. It was also through his work that I learnt the term, “The Decisive Moment”. Henri argued it were able to see the moment, then you most likely won’t be able to capture it. That is to say, a photographer should anticipate an act, before it happens.

Other influences include: Ansel Adams, Vivian Maier, Josef Koudelka and Eugene Smith, who were all masters in their own right. 

Do you think of particular themes at a time and how much time do you spend on planning this?

When out shooting, I do not go out with a particular theme, or even scenario in mind. I love walking until I get lost. I observe the world around me and the people therein. The idea is to see what few others give much attention to. Human behaviour can be fascinating in this aspect. 

Do you have to travel much to get exactly that special scene for your photography?

You should be able to make interesting photos no matter where you are. That said, it’s always healthy to renew the environment you are in as too much of the same thing can stunt your creativity.

Do you often just see something and know you have to capture it right away?

Sometimes. Sometimes I can go hours without really being happy with anything and that’s also fine. Photography is not something you force. If you go out and capture 10 great moments…great! If you go out and capture zero great moments…great! At least you got some exercise.

Do you consider freedom of expression in art a fundamental right of creators and why?

This is a very big topic with advocates arguing on all sides. In order to not write a very long essay on this, I’ll give a short, concise response.

I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Art requires freedom in order to grow, ask difficult questions, or raise important issues; but, like anything in life, I do not think it should be carte blanche freedom. Once it crosses the ethical or moral line, that’s when it needs to be stopped. In my opinion, that’s not the point of art. I do not think there is any space for depravity or shocking the audience, just for the sake of shocking - that’s just lazy.

Do you think that creativity should be a priority of educational systems and how would you encourage it?

We are, by our very nature, creative creatures. The education, as it stands, is very outdated and so is our notion of the scope of creativity and where it can apply. I believe creativity is just as important in the educational system as say, English, Maths or Science.

This seems to be an international problem, because, regardless of where you are in the world, Maths and the humanities are ranked at the top, whilst the arts are way at the bottom of the hierarchy. If you think about it though, that’s not at all surprising. Today’s educational system was the very same educational system that came out the flaming fires of industrialism. As such, it was was carefully designed and crafted to cater to the needs of the growing industries.

Creativity is not limited to just the creative subjects. The manner in which we educate the next generation can also be creative. Gone are the days of sitting 30 children to a classroom, with the teacher at the front of the class offloading their knowledge to a class of young kids, who are expected to memorise and regurgitate for the exams. 

Reforming the educational system is a must, but we can reform our own ideas first. When raising our children at home, we need to act as catalysts for their creativity. Create an environment that will allow it to not only grow, but thrive. 

Let's talk about creativity. What role should creativity play in society?

The wondrous thing about children is that society has not yet broken them down, made them feel embarrassed or ashamed for trying something out. They will take a chance! Unfortunately, we live in a world that does not look favourably on the risk takers. Consequently, once they get to the stage in life where they are old enough to be paying taxes, they've fallen in line with everyone else in society. Another drone on the factory line. It’s what the educational system was preparing them for. 

Human imagination is a magnificent thing and it should be celebrated, not hampered out of us.

What message would you like to convey with your photography?

I like for every image to be a frozen moment in someone’s life. The elements in the frame help contextualise the narrative, but it’s up to the viewer to try and decipher the story behind someone’s smile, frown and head tilt.

What or who inspires you?

People. Human beings are so fascinating to me. Quirky mannerisms, the human mind, intelligence…it all grabs my attention.

What are your other interests?

I love writing. It’s a therapeutical outlet for me. When I have thoughts swirling around in my head, I write. When I’m worked up by something, I write. When I’m happy, I write.