The world of photography is dreamy but it demands a perseverance that a tenacious few like Mohsin Abrar can pursue with zeal. A native of Cuttack, Mohsin followed his passion for travel photography even to Dubai, where he now currently lives. He has been published in National Geographic, World Post, and many other prestigious publications while having already staged three photography exhibitions, rising to the top levels of photography.
Being a travel photographer he has been exploring corners of the world bringing back colourful images and portraits for us to be inspired. But besides being a well known photographer, Mohsin is also a marketing professional. My City Links caught up with him to ask him about his photography, travels, stories behind his shots while gathering some tips for aspiring photographers. Excerpts.
Tell us about your journey from a city like Cuttack to Dubai?
Cuttack is my Janmabhoomi and Dubai is my Karmabhoomi. I was born in Cuttack and grew up there. I have spent most of my formative years in Cuttack and have fond memories of the city. But my profession as a marketing person made me move to Dubai, eight years ago.
Your father is a renowned figure of the Odia film industry. What was his influence on you?
My father was a self made man. When he entered the Odia film industry, he was nobody. He then carved a niche for himself as an actor, director and a meaningful movie maker out of sheer hard work and passion. His life and drive to achieve things in life hugely influenced me, and made me believe that with passion and dedication, nothing is impossible to achieve.
Any specific thing that inspired you towards photography?
My father was a movie maker and used to portray the beauty and culture of Odisha in a creative way. This impressed on my mind for long but never became a dominant thought because of my career. Now that I have found a balance between both my passion and career, I have picked up from where my father had left in the creative field.
What dominates your time – photography or marketeering? Will you ever leave your profession as a marketer to become a full time photographer?
With a comfortable balance between my profession and passion, my time is now quite evenly spread between both. While throughout the week, I focus on work, the weekends are dedicated purely to photography. I call myself the weekend warrior when it comes to photography! I do not intend to quit my profession, just because I am in a creative field. My profession also gives me a lot of positive energy.
You are mostly a travel photographer. What is your favorite mode of travelling? What do you like about it and how exactly does it help your photography?
Well, being a travel photographer, I have got well versed with all modes of travel. I will give you an example of the time when I had to shoot near the China border of Vietnam. I had to take off from Dubai in an airplane, land in Ho Chi min City, then fly again to Hanoi. Then, from Hanoi to Sapa, it was a train journey. Later I took a motorbike ride across Sapa with intermittent walking and eventually ending up on a boat in Halong Bay. This has been the craziest trip I have ever done till date. I assume I have experienced all modes of travel and photographed along the way as well.
What is your favorite destination in terms of photography?
India and Indonesia- both the countries inspire me because of the diversity of landscapes and cultures. In India, particularly, you can find all the landscapes from mountains, to sea to deserts.
Since you belong to Odisha, how do you feel about it as a location for photography? Will you ever consider doing a project showcasing Odisha landscape and culture?
This has been a dream for me since a long time. Odisha as a state is very close to my heart because of its rich natural and cultural diversity. There are certain places in Odisha where I long to shoot, like Puri, Konark, Sambalpur and Cuttack to name a few.
What is your favorite subject to shoot?
I try and capture anything that inspires me to tell a story. Though landscapes are what easily motivate me.
What is your approach to portrait photography, since it is not easy to approach strangers?
I believe in interacting with the person and making him or her comfortable before I go ahead with the shoot. This helps the person drop all his or her inhibitions and anxiousness and become comfortable before the camera.
National Geographic selected your photo for Editor’s Choice. Tell us about it.
Three years ago, I had taken a picture in Nepal which I called the “Yetis of Nepal”. This image featured in four continents and more than 50 publications including The World Post, Yahoo News, Herald Sun, Business Insider to name a few. I happened to be in contact with Nat Geo because of this image that I had clicked. Since then, it has been an extremely productive journey. Apart from being featured in Editor’s Choice, I have been published in “The greatest landscapes of the world” by Nat Geo and Nat Geo traveler Amsterdam.
Though it might be a common question for you, but what are your favorite equipment and lenses?
I love working with Nikon camera and lenses. I use the Nikon D810 body and the Trilogy lenses.
On the other hand, what is the element that one should have to become a great photographer, even if he cannot afford high-end equipments?
Though equipment is important, the man behind the lens is more important. I am a firm believer of this formula. So if you believe in yourself and have the eye to isolate a subject telling a connecting story, then you need not always have high end equipments to become a photographer.
What is your best tip for aspiring photographers in general, trying to improve their travel portraits and photography?
With smart phones and digital cameras at our disposal, we have been clicking a lot of images. You would be amazed to know if I tell you that in a single minute of every single day, we click as many images as the entire generation clicked some years ago. At the same time, while some images make a difference in our lives, others are just passé. According to me, a simple tip for all photographers would be to communicate meaningful stories through their photography rather than merely capturing and recording observations/images through the camera. Capturing meaningful stories would require a lot of observation power where a photographer applies himself/herself to the scene and what message they want to pass on to the viewer through the images.
What is your approach to social media and how has it helped in your photography?
Every one of us has been spending sizable amount of time on social media. So for me social media is an important medium today to connect with people and showcase your work. I have been active on Facebook, Instagram and initiated a YouTube page also. The handles where you can find me on social media are Instagram: mohsinabrarofficial, FB: Mohsin Abrar and You Tube: mohsinabrarofficial
How many exhibitions have you held till now and where?
My first exhibition was in India Club, Dubai. After that, I had done two more exhibitions one in Indian Cultural Society in Abu Dhabi and the other in Knowledge Village, Dubai.
What are your next projects?
I am currently busy with National Geographic’s ‘Photographer of the Year’ project, where three of my pictures out of more than 25,000 images have made it to the final round. Following that, I am also working on a couple of assignments of Nat Geo. That apart, I intend to have a few exhibitions in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar which I am working on now. And finally, I am involved in an ongoing ‘Story Telling Workshop’ with Nikon in Singapore.