A mere moment has the potential to cause immense joy or agonising pain. It has the potential to alter thoughts, play with your emotions, even change your life forever. Consider the impact a single moment has on a man whose wife has just given birth that minute, ora mother who has just learned that her son waskilled at war.
A moment is not something that we can easily define but we all understand that once it passes, it's gone forever, only existing in our memories until those too fade. A photo, however, can permanently capture the moment and serve as a tangible personificationof the emotions surrounding it. It's a link to the past,a way to revive forgotten experiences. It's a way to not only record world events but to preserve the tales of humanity surrounding these events that are oftenlost in history.
For the photographer, life is a photo waiting to be taken and the artistic eye is always at work, says Alia Al Shamsi, Emirati photojournalist. "I am always analysing everything around me even when I'm not photographing. It's become second nature for me to compose and appreciate good lighting and clear skies," explains the 29-year-old Dubai native.
In 2005, Alia became the first professional female photographer from the UAE covering national and international events. She is currently working on a series of independent projects as a photographer, curator and archivist. In addition to the UAE, her work has been exhibited in Italy, Germany, Australia and the US.
Constantly composing photographs in your mind means perceiving life differently. "I'm all about the small, mundane details that can easily go unnoticed. They're what move me, and stir my curiosity to know more," she says, adding that it's important to be able to put the camera down. "I always carry a small one in my bag. It's like a notebook for writers. I jot down images for ideas and inspiration. But I've learned to enjoy the moment and sometimes put the camera down. So many miss out on experiences because they are too busy viewing it through the viewfinder."
Participating in the moment
Photographer Raju Alexis also sees the importance of participating in the moment rather than always viewing it through the lens. "I am passionate about photography but I wouldn't want it to come in the way of me enjoying my life," says the 37-year-old Indian.
Because a photographer's mind interprets life in terms of artistic elements, putting the camera down occasionally helps maintain a balance between working and just being, says Alexis. "Your eye is always composing [once] you've been trained to look for light and shade, patterns, and to try to isolate your subject from the background clutter. You tend to recognise moments and this is not just in the life around you; I also [analyse] a lot of work of other photographersto see how they look at each topic."
Alexis currently works for a creative design agency in Dubai. He has been involved in photography for almost a decade and covers a variety of subject matter but favours landscapes and cityscapes.
Something important that photography has taught him, reveals Alexis, is to be well prepared. "When you are prepared you get lucky. I think most of my good pictures happen by chance but there is a lot of hard work surrounding that chance," he says.
Technicality plays a part in achieving qualitypictures but what makes them good is the level of meaning they convey, adds Khameis Al Hefaity,a photographer from Fujairah. "A good photographer has the ability to deliver a specific message through the camera lens. And a good photo is one that touches people's heart and affects their emotions by whatever message it carries," says Al Hefaity, who has beena photographer for ten years.
Al Hefaity, who is 30, belongs to a host of photography societies. He has organised a plethora of exhibitions and events, and has won numerous awards for his work. He also runs Thursd@y, a gallery which hosts competitions, workshops and exhibitions.
"Photographers see what others don't — we capture unique moments that, when archived, people can keep as an eternal memory," he says.