Mohamad Seifed­dine: Driv­ing the Mes­sage Home

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Mohamad Seifed­dine fell in love with pho­tog­ra­phy out of the need to ex­press his thoughts and feel­ings vis­ually, which is quite un­usual con­sid­er­ing that he was only 10 years old. Since then, the cam­era has been his most trusted com­pan­ion. What fol­lows is his vi­sion of the world.

What is the hard­est part of your job?

Hon­estly, I do not see any hard part in my job, although it trans­formed over the years from a hobby to a pro­fes­sion. How­ever, I still en­joy it a lot be­cause, from the get-go, it be­gan and con­tin­ues to be my way for self-ex­pres­sion.

If not a pho­tog­ra­pher who you would have been?

I see pho­tog­ra­phy as art and what I mean is that it is a com­bi­na­tion of sculp­ture, paint­ing, po­etry and mu­sic... All these to­gether form a photo. For that rea­son, I con­sider my­self an artist rather than a pho­tog­ra­pher. It is where I be­long and what I was born to be.

How would you de­scribe your style and how did it de­velop?

Style de­vel­ops with time and ex­pe­ri­ence, a re­al­ity I con­tin­u­ally em­pha­sise dur­ing my pho­tog­ra­phy work­shops. How­ever, I lean more to­ward the artis­tic side rather than the school of pho­to­jour­nal­ism, be­cause I do not be­lieve that a pho­tog­ra­pher should “cap­ture the mo­ment” un­less he is a pho­to­jour­nal­ist... Nonethe­less, an artis­tic pho­tog­ra­pher should “cre­ate the mo­ment” rather than have a “snappy happy” shot. In other words, one should put his/her ideas, feel­ings, con­cepts and mes­sages into the vis­ual be­fore pre­sent­ing it to the au­di­ence.

Which pho­tog­ra­phers in­spired you most and how did they in­flu­ence your think­ing, style, and ca­reer path?

Many pi­o­neers have in­spired me such as, Ansel Adams with his great black and white land­scapes, Dorothea Lange and how her por­traits of

im­mi­grants helped in chang­ing all im­mi­grants’ rules in the USA to be­come more hu­mane! I also like Se­bas­tiao Sal­gado and Sal­vador Dali the pi­o­neer of Sur­re­al­ism. These great artists in­spired me to such a point they be­came the trig­ger for me to take pho­tog­ra­phy as an ex­cep­tional means to con­vey all sorts of mes­sages and thoughts re­lated to social, en­vi­ron­men­tal, per­sonal or even po­lit­i­cal is­sues.

How do you ed­u­cate your­self to take bet­ter pic­tures?

In pho­tog­ra­phy, like in any art, the learn­ing process is con­tin­u­ous. You learn some­thing new ev­ery day that adds value to you and your work. See­ing the work of fa­mous pho­tog­ra­phers can help any begin­ner to learn how to bet­ter see the tech­niques. But, when you reach the phase of cre­at­ing your own path or style, you start to ed­u­cate your­self about more pro­found sub­jects like phi­los­o­phy. You sud­denly find your­self delv­ing into art move­ments and hu­man­ity be­cause you feel more con­cerned in us­ing these to ex­press is­sues that can ben­e­fit and im­prove so­ci­ety or the en­vi­ron­ment to which you be­long.

What is the in­flu­ence of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy on your work?

Let’s face it, we are in the dig­i­tal era and dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy has brought us mil­lions of things that boosted pho­tog­ra­phy and opened up the hori­zon of cre­ativ­ity. For me, those who still crit­i­cise dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy are the ones who were in­ca­pable of adopt­ing new tech­nolo­gies. Dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy is a part of our lives whether we like it or not. Af­ter all, who doesn’t have a cam­era phone to­day? The in­flu­ence of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy on my pho­tog­ra­phy is un­lim­ited... I now have the op­por­tu­nity to take many more pho­tos that are not lim­ited to the film be­ing used and de­velop them with­out the need for a dark room. Let’s not for­get the large se­lec­tion of medi­ums we to­day can print on... The en­tire in­dus­try changed for the bet­ter, es­pe­cially since we now have so many op­tions to choose from, which are based on how cre­ative one is.

What kind of mode do you go into when pho­tograph­ing a con­cept or idea you are pas­sion­ate about?

De­tached from the rest of the world... When I am work­ing on a con­cept or idea I am pas­sion­ate about, I live in­side it.

We know that each of us has some­one or some­thing, which in­spires our life and work.

Can you tell us the true ba­sis of your in­spi­ra­tion?

My in­spi­ra­tion can be a poem, a scene, a song, a sit­u­a­tion that I am liv­ing or a state of mind... The sub­ject here varies but the point of de­par­ture starts with the idea that links the in­spi­ra­tion. In my mind is where the idea starts de­vel­op­ing af­ter which I start the day­dream­ing process un­til it fully-ma­tures.

What is the favourite image you re­cently shot?

Hon­estly, I do not have a favourite photo... Each one ex­presses some­thing and has its own mean­ing and taste for me. Nonethe­less, I would like to point out that ini­tially, the idea pre­cedes the com­po­si­tion and lo­ca­tion. As for light­ing and cam­era set­tings, those are also im­por­tant but sec­ondary... I em­pha­sise this point be­cause many pho­tog­ra­phers worry more about light­ing and cam­era set­tings than the ac­tual idea and its com­po­si­tion... In 2010, I par­tic­i­pated in an in­ter­na­tional pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tion held in UN­ESCO and the pho­tog­ra­pher next to me had some a very cre­ative and unique style. So, when I asked how she did those pieces, she laughed and took from her purse a small point and shoot cam­era and ex­plained... It was a turn­ing point for me, which taught me prece­dence in re­la­tion to con­cept.

What makes a good pic­ture stand out?

This is the ques­tion I al­ways ask in my pho­tog­ra­phy work­shops. The an­swer is sim­ple. When we have the full knowl­edge of the the­o­ries and prin­ci­ples of pho­tog­ra­phy, we will be able to make a photo that cap­tures the eye and con­veys the mes­sage we want to the au­di­ence.

What it is that you want to say with your photographs and how do you ac­tu­ally get your pho­tos to do that?

My work car­ries a lot of mes­sages that I in­sist on show­ing. My con­cerns are mainly re­lated to the hu­man con­di­tion, en­vi­ron­ment, rev­o­lu­tions

against cor­rup­tion and in­equal­ity. As such, I try to spread peace and non­vi­o­lence through pho­tog­ra­phy, while high­light­ing the beauty of the places I visit, es­pe­cially my beloved coun­try Lebanon. That is why I some­times use con­cep­tual pho­tog­ra­phy and sur­re­al­ism tech­niques to con­vey a social mes­sage.

What has been your most mem­o­rable as­sign­ment?

My lat­est e-book en­ti­tled, “The Vi­sion”. Af­ter re­leas­ing two pho­tog­ra­phy books, I wanted to re­lease one for free and in a dig­i­tal copy ac­ces­si­ble to all, which I in­vite you to down­load from my web­site. It re­flects new thoughts in a new way.

Do you get to work with ad agen­cies on spe­cific as­sign­ments?

I did a lot of com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phy jobs that were mostly for prod­ucts, shops, ho­tels, restau­rants, real es­tate com­pa­nies and artists. Un­for­tu­nately, I turned down some ad agency of­fers since they wanted to com­mu­ni­cate ideas us­ing small bud­gets, which could have jeop­ar­dised the whole work. What I am look­ing for is a highly cre­ative and in­ter­est­ing advertising col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Do you see your­self as a pho­tog­ra­pher many years down the road?

Pho­tog­ra­phy is my life’s pas­sion. Un­less I am phys­i­cally de­bil­i­tated, I will al­ways see my­self hold­ing a cam­era.

What ad­vice do you have for pho­tog­ra­phers just start­ing out?

Do not go for the ex­pen­sive cam­era be­cause it will never add any­thing to your work. Cameras are just tools, so learn to de­velop your eyes to “see” the world and learn the prin­ci­ples and the­o­ries to bet­ter un­der­stand when and where you can break them and when they are ex­cel­lent to use! See the work of oth­ers but never imi­tate.


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