Zaheer Ali’s photographs have a certain arresting nature about them. They’re intricate images, each one filled with striking colour and detail, almost frenetic in nature. Then there are his portraits which are still and considered pieces of work. Certainly, the Liberty Igerbook photographer has a wide range when it comes to the craft, but it’s his keen eye that makes for such captivating images, be it in the form of portraits, landscapes, or even a chance, streetside snap.
We speak to Ali about his photographic origins, his passion for capturing moments, and the art of seeing the world from a unique angle.
Tell me a little bit about your history with photography. When did you first pick up a camera?
Photography was always something I was intrigued by. I remember always having a digital camera wherever I went. Family holidays, soccer tournaments, friends hanging out and playing table tennis at my house, I always had a camera and I was snapping away.
So I picked up a camera from a very young age. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing but I knew what I wanted to capture. I always tried to be creative in my own particular way.
Your images used in the Liberty Igerbook all carry a distinct quality to them. How did you go about framing those shots and how do these unique perspectives and angles come to you?
I always try and push myself to get out more, to be more active in the community, to be a positive vibe around people. This helps me so much in being more creative around my surroundings. The camera is only the tool, the story behind the photos are so much more. Take for example, the Magaliesburg hot air balloon shot, booking it a month in advance, waking up at 4:30am driving from JHB south to Magalies alone hungry for adventure. I took so many photos and had such a great time, and posted only one or two of my favourites. I didn’t look at the money it costed or the KM’s I drove, I have a hunger for adventure and capturing it. This gives drives me to get better and create unique perspectives.
Technically speaking – how much of a role does a fresh angle and perspective play in the making of a great photograph?
It plays a big part. It’s very refreshing seeing something new. In current times we all follow trends, especially in the social media department, if XYZ has 20k followers and specialises in portraits, we tend to question our ability based on his followers and not the quality of the images. My point is as well is getting to the point of having “20k” followers, you also have to keep changing it up, in portraiture there are hundreds of different angles and perspectives you can accomplish. You just have to keep testing your ability to be more adventurous.
How do you find Instagram helps your photography?
Oh man, if it wasn’t for Instagram I would of still been posting pics of my all stars and different coloured happy socks. Instagram got me to go out and actually study my camera at Nikon and do many part time photography courses at CODP in JHB. There are people out there posting amazing stuff everyday and you as a viewer feel the urge to be that good one day. So you push yourself daily trying to be better and create a modern aura to your photos.
Many of your images convey a sense of wonder and adventure. How do you manage to convey these things in photos of seemingly every day spaces and places?
There’s adventure all around us, we might live in a city but there could be adventure in your back garden. There are times I spend two hours in the garden just trying to get a good photo of a buzzing bee in a tree. Adventure is jumping in your car and chasing sunset or waking up an hour earlier just to catch sunrise. This is how you convey adventure, you throw yourself into it and capture it to your best ability.
Of all the places you’ve photographed, what’s the one that stands out for you and why?
Wow, hard question to ask! They all stand out for me, the hardest thing is to be your own critic when it comes to photos. Each photo I post I make it special because of the adventure and story behind the photo.
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