Shutterstock is made possible by our network of more than 60,000 contributing artists around the globe. In an effort to celebrate the personal stories behind the images in our collection, we’re proud to bring you this monthly contributor spotlight series.
Ashraf Jandali‘s unique images speak volumes. His photography is taken in and around Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, and composed of bright city lights and expansive desert landscapes. Although he’s relatively new to the the craft, Jandali’s vision is remarkably focused. We caught up with this inspiring contributor to learn more about his work.
Shutterstock: What’s your background as a photographer?
Jandali: I started to take photography seriously in 2011. Before that, I was just occasionally taking photos, but without thinking about techniques or details. It started when I decided to join a photography club here in Dubai called EPyC Photography Club — I found in them a huge passion for photography and some serious photography words and phrases.
My character loves challenges, especially ones that are within my interest. So, from there, I started reading magazines, downloading PDF files, taking courses, and spending 70 percent of my time on YouTube. It took me two years to reach a stage where people started to like my work, and that gave me more energy to take it even further.
Are you a full-time photographer?
I’m a communications engineer and a business owner since 2010. I give photography most of my spare time. I consider it my yoga, that will help me forget all about my problems or any stresses that could be generated during daily work.
How did you decide to become a Shutterstock contributor?
It was when I met a Shutterstock employee here in Dubai, who told me about the organization, that I thought, “Why don’t I give it a shot?” It’s a lovely experience when people download my images and I get paid for it. It helps me to improve my photography and take it to a new level.
From whom and where do you get photographic inspiration?
It’s from the members that we have in our group — there are so many talented people who give me many ideas to start with. And the many photographers that I follow on YouTube also provide me with a huge amount of information and inspiration.
What is the art community like in the UAE?
I live in a city called Sharjah very close to Dubai. In Dubai, we have a huge amount of art galleries that many people join and attend. We also have one of the biggest photography events — the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Awards (HIPA) — which photographers from all around the world participate in.
How do you capture your aerial shots?
I actually don’t do aerial shots! The shots that you have seen were taken from above the rooftops. I sometimes go with friends who have permission to use rooftops to take pictures; most of the time, you just need to give it a shot and try your luck — if you get caught, they will only ask you to leave.
What do you find most photographically compelling about where you live?
I’m a landscape and cityscape photographer, so mostly what interests me here is the mixture between the old cities and the new ones. Portrait photographers here will find amazing shots related to people and culture that you won’t see outside UAE.
How has contributing to Shutterstock benefited your career?
I have learned a lot from Shutterstock about how to fine-tune my images for them to be accepted and sold. There’s a tough level of quality acceptance, which means a lot to me, and that made me take my photography to a totally new level.
Do you often travel for your photography?
I don’t travel specifically for photography. Whenever I go on a business trip, I do take advantage, since I’m already there, and come back with as many as photos as I can. The countries that I’ve visited while I was into photography are Germany, Jordan, Singapore, and China.
What’s the location of your sand-dune shots?
Sand dunes here are everywhere. I took some from Abu Dhabi (the empty quarter), Dubai, and Sharjah.
What projects/photo series are on the horizon for you?
I’m working on a project called “How Machines See Us.” I’ve done some shots where I placed the camera in the washing machine, dishwasher, fridge, and oven. That idea came to me when I watched a video from Bryan Peterson showing how to shoot a pizza cooked in the oven.
I’m also in the process of adding more images that describe our local culture for Shutterstock, since there is a huge demand for them.
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