A decade of picture perfect ‘Moments’ with regional Nat Geo comp
National Geographic Abu Dhabi contest unearths local photography talent says judge Mohammed Muheisen
LAUNCHED TO NURTURE the region’s talented photographers and provide a platform to showcase their creative work around ten years ago, the ‘Moments’ contest has attracted over 275,000 aspiring photographers to date and has been credited with changing the lives of dozens of winners, setting them on the path to professional growth. It has provided a unique documentation of the region and taken National Geographic Abu Dhabi’s audience on a fascinating cultural, historic and social journey of discovery throughout the Arab world.
Wafa Abdel Majeed, the winner of the competition’s ninth edition in the junior category has said: ”Winning the competition increased my confidence in my work. It gave me the push to go forward, to explore the world of photography and fulfil my passion. One thing I learnt through National Geographic is that sometimes the most impactful photo is the simplest.”
As the deliberation for 2020’s winner continues we spoke to two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, National Geographic photographer and part of this year’s ‘Moments’ Judging panel Mohammed Muheisen to pick his brains about pics.
How important are competitions like Moments to discover new talents in the region?
We all seek recognition, but this competition could be life-changing for a budding photographer who wants to expand his/her career and wants to move on to the next level or build a reputation for someone who has just started out in photography. In addition, the prize of photography equipment could kickstart someone’s passion or ease a route into a career as a professional, seen as equipment can be very expensive. We also know that pictures are important in our lives. It also helps photographers to show an image of their region that many around the world don’t know about.
Does the GCC landscape present and lend itself well to photography opportunities?
A photographer is an artist who has the gift of seeing things differently, and wherever you go there is beauty to be seen. We don’t only capture pictures with our cameras, but also with our hearts and eyes. The Gulf region is full of beautiful places. I have personally been to Sharjah and Dubai and taken many pictures. I was amazed by the architecture and beautiful landscapes. All you need is to open your eyes and to be passionate about what you are doing. Photography is not a job; photography is a combination of passion and education.
If you can put it in basic terms, what for you makes or breaks the perfect shot?
To me, a picture that lacks emotion is like a body without a soul. Emotion is what makes a picture interesting and what evokes curiosity. And then you have the technical talent, which combines the composition and the lighting plus the background. For me it is like a triangle: you need an interesting subject in front of your camera whether it’s a place or a human being, you then need to capture the emotion and the spontaneous moment and this is completed with the technical talent. Since we are learning something new every day, we could never have a perfect picture, because knowledge never stops.
What subjects are you most interested in seeing and why?
I am always interested in human issues and social issues. The pandemic is an unseen pain in many ways. We need to visualise it, step out of our comfort zones and be creative in capturing what this year means to us.
Now everyone has a pretty sophisticated camera in their pocket, do you believe the standard of photography has improved?
The world of photography has changed. In previous years, you had a lot of photo editors to help you as a photographer but nowadays you have to be the photographer, the editor and the videographer. There is one place where the quality is never compromised despite demands, which is National Geographic. That’s why I am happy to be part of this platform, and this competition.
Do you think photographers are born or made?
I always say a skill for photography is something you are born with. However, I realised later on that you also need some knowledge. It’s so important to be passionate and also to be willing to learn. I started working professionally in 2000 but ten years later, I realised that I don’t know as much about photography as I thought I did. So, it is a marathon and an ongoing quest for knowledge. You should never stop learning.