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Day 73: First Friday Feature: Amani AlShaali

Where do I even begin with this incredible soul? Four years ago at the very first Promoting Passion Convention put on by Brooke Shaden, I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Amani AlShaali. However, it was not until the following year that I really got to know her and got to see just how incredible she is.

Not only is Amani a wonderful photography with so much talent, she is one of the sweetest and most considerate people I know. Her heart is pure gold and her hugs are the absolute best thing on earth. So without further ado, I give you my friend and my soul sister, Amani AlShaali.

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a 28 year old photographer currently based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. I got my bachelor’s degree back in 2012 in Interior Design and worked as an interior designer for about 5 years, mainly working on yacht interiors, while doing photography too. I’ve been a photographer, professionally, for about 6 years now and over the last couple of years I branched out into shooting wedding portraits, family portraits, and some commercial photography (fashion, look-books, and jewelry). I got married in January to my best friend, who’s also a photographer, and we have a precious doggo named Ash (a mini-schnauzer).

2. What go you started in photography?

I’ve always loved photography. When I was in high school, I used to take portraits of people in my class, documenting family trips, and experimenting with self portraits. When I stumbled upon DeviantArt back in 2005-2006, I fell in love with conceptual photography. My biggest inspiration was Lara Jade’s self portraits, they always had this dark gothic vibe to them and that definitely influenced my style. Later on, in 2013, and while working as an interior designer, I attended Brooke Shaden’s workshop in Dubai and that’s when I realized that fine art photography is what I want to do for the rest of my life. My depression was at its worse then, and that workshop, and especially Brooke, gave me hope. So I started creating conceptual photography to heal.

3. Describe your workflow, what is unique about your process?

My workflow changes based on the kind of shoot I’m doing. So if I’m just having fun with a friend or model and shooting portraits, I’d have a general idea of the mood or theme I’m going for but I don’t go into it knowing exactly what images I’d get. Unlike when I shoot conceptual images, where I would usually sketch out the idea and know exactly what shots I need to get, especially if I know it’s going to be heavily photoshopped. The same goes for my client work too, everything is planned ahead of time – from poses and props to the lighting and setup.

4. What do you enjoy most about creating an image?

I think what I enjoy the most, and what feels like a win to me, is when I have an idea and I can see it clearly in my head, and it comes out exactly how I wanted it. It’s such a rewarding feeling.

5. What camera equipment do you use? What have you used in the past?

Right now I’m using a Canon 5D Mark 3, with an 85mm 1.2, a 50mm 1.4, and a 24-105. I use the 50 for conceptual photography, 85 for portraits, and the 24-105 for landscapes/stock images. I’ve been using the same camera since 2013, before that I had an old Canon that I don’t even think they make anymore.

6. Is there a certain theme you try to express in your work? What do you feel a need to share that?

My theme used to be centered around depression and the low points in my life, but just like everything else it’s constantly changing and evolving. I think with my newer work, I’ve been trying to explore the complexity of humans or what it means to be human. I think it’s important to share whatever it is we’re going through because there’s always someone somewhere out there who’s going through the exact same thing, who’s asking the exact same questions. And maybe we won’t ever find answers, but at least we’re asking those questions together.

7. Where do you find inspiration?

Music has always been one of my favorite places to find inspiration. Poetry, too. I think words, either in lyric-form or poetry, are so powerful and stimulating. Life, despite how hard it gets, is inspiring. I spend a lot of time in my head thinking about things that are happening in my life, and sometimes my brain would randomly come up with this strange visual representation of the situation I’m in. Sometimes that translates into conceptual images and sometimes it doesn’t. And of course, other photographers and artists that I follow on social media.

8. Out of your images, which is your personal favorite and why?

Across The Abyss – it’s an image that I created within my first year of doing fine art photography full time, and it was technically challenging as I only knew the basics of compositing and didn’t have much experience with photoshop. Getting it done, and getting it to look the way I wanted it to, made me feel so so proud. It was also one of my more hopeful images and it truly represented how I felt at the time: walking into the unknown, terrified of falling into the darkness, but doing it anyway because hope lies just on the other side.

9. What is the biggest piece of advice you have ever been given? What advice would you give your younger self, the you who just started creating?

It was never just one piece of advice I’ve been given that stuck with me, it’s little words from different people who matter a lot to me and to whom I have high regards, and a lot of it comes down to one thing: believing in myself, because they believe in me. But if I could give my younger self one piece of advice it would be to never, ever stop creating. Even when every photoshoot fails, and every idea feels stupid, do it anyway.

10. What do you hope people will take away from your images?

I hope that people would feel less alone, and know that we all have demons of different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they win the battles, but we’ll win the war.

You can find Amani through Instagram or her website.

Until Next Time,
Lillian Merritt

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