MOHAMMED AL ANSARI, A FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER WHOSE PHOTOS ARE SO VIBRANT THAT YOU ALMOST TASTE IT
In various famous and international hotels and restaurants, Mohammed Al Ansari’s lens roams to capture the most delicious meals and deserts. It is clear that Mohammed has become one of the most brilliant food photographers and stylists in the middle east due to his bold style in a profession that has become part and parcel of the culinary world. Join us for a very intriguing interview.
BY Hadeel Atalla
AS AN ESTEEMED FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER, WHAT GIVES YOU THE EDGE IN THIS PROFESSION?
Firstly, I would like to mention that I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer sciences; photography was just a hobby to me at first, but now it is my main job. Anyway, what sets me apart is that I am well versed in international cuisines in addition to the fact that I have an archive for each cuisine and what makes a cuisine standout. All that has given me an edge in this field in addition to aiding me to come up with an unconventional style mixed with a lot of magic to reach a level that pleases the taste of food photography aficionados.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY IN SPECIFIC?
It is my love of cooking and coming up with new recipes as well as innovating and cooking authentic dishes with my own style, in addition to presenting the dishes in a modern style that stands up to the most recent standards and then photograph it from different angles that can accentuate my own style. This is why I concentrate on food photography, although I also photograph other things, such as jewelry, nature, people, different occasions and so on and so forth.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE IN PHOTOGRAPHY?
I tend to take photos with antique backgrounds, which can be quite challenging given the scarcity of the materials associated with this type of food photography which are hard to find even with other photographers.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT ACCOMPANIES FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY?
The main challenge in food photography is imagining a scene for the photo-session; this stage requires time, tools and ideas for presenting the dish the best way possible. Additionally, it entails studying the place, angles and suitable atmosphere for the session along with retrieving previous methods and literature for the kind of photo session I am making and what tools and equipment go well with it. The whole process of course is accompanied with my own style of photography. Generally speaking, such challenges can be tackled with continuous practice and self-development in addition to keeping an eye out for new techniques and equipment that would increase the aesthetic value of my photos.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU PERSONALLY GO THROUGH?
As a food photographer, the main challenge that I had to tackle was seeking the means to make my unconventional, radical and bold way of taking photos appealing to the regular audience. I was criticized for my style of photography once, but that only motivated me to go further and innovate more to the extent that my followers started to identify me with this style of mine. Moreover, my style of photography has become a source of inspiration to amateur and experienced photographers alike. I am proud that I became this famous among my peers, especially that I work in a field that needs more creative techniques.
BEFORE YOUR PHOTO SESSIONS, DO YOU GIVE NOTES RELATED TO THE DISHES ITSELF SUCH AS IMPROVING THE DISH PRESENTATION FOR INSTANCE?
Of course! In order to present the dish in its full beauty, I have to interfere with some details that may not be recognized by the regular observer nor the chef who made the dish even. On the other hand, I also need to create an alluring environment and this aspect depends immensely on the photographer’s prowess so people can enjoy the dish before eating it.
It should be noted that this may or may not involve me recreating some dishes and take photos for it later. Still, most of the dishes I photograph are previously made by the chefs.
This brings us to an important note: whenever I take a picture of a dish, I have to go back to the dish’s origins; for instance, when I start visualization Qatari dishes, I have to draw in my imagination all the cooking methods used; old and modern, which can be found in the Qatari cuisine and any other cuisine such as the Indian and Japanese.
DOES TAKING PHOTOS AT HOME PROVIDE MORE CONTROL IN COMPARED TO THE RESTAURANT?
All depends on photo session itself; photo sessions taken in my home studio can be better since I have easier access to my equipment or simply because the place where the dish was made doesn’t have a suitable place for making the photo session. Either way, doing the photo session at home or outside won’t affect the quality or value of the photo because seasoned photographers can take perfect photos with the least available equipment because it all depends on the photographers’ skills in the first place.
IS IT POSSIBLE THAT TAKING PHOTOS WITH SMART PHONES WOULD REPLACE TAKING PHOTOS WITH HIGH-END PROFESSIONAL CAMERAS?
Photography is an art that depends mainly on the artistic perspective of the photographer. Hence, there is no way to compare nor prefer taking a photo with a camera or a smartphone. Each has its distinct specifications and preferences. I took photos using smart phones for various projects and it all gave satisfying results. Therefore, I advise beginners not to make things complicated when it comes to photography, given that insisting on owning a professional camera may obstruct their endeavors to become experienced photographers one day. Just use the resources you have or afford at the time.
HOW FAR DOES TRAVELLING DEVELOP YOUR WORK?
The benefits of travelling are plenty and include gaining more knowledge and building new relationships. On the personal level, travelling helps me find tools that can assist me with my work and learn more about new cuisines in addition to adding more to my theoretical and practical experience and improving my performance as well as enhancing my skills and capability of offering new perspectives in the field. Moreover, traveling helped me make new friendships with many professional photographers, which gave me the chance to exchange experiences and ideas with each other.
HOW DO YOU GUARANTEE THE CREDIBILITY OF YOUR PHOTOS? I MEAN, SOMETIMES THE PHOTO MAY INSINUATE THAT THE DISH MAY HAVE AN OTHERWORLDLY TASTE BUT IN FACT IT TASTES JUST NORMAL?
My responsibility as a food photographer is to deliver the dish to the customers’ eyes the best way possible and it should be delivered to them as the photo says. As for the taste, I guess taste differs from one person to another.
AS A PROFESSIONAL TRAINER IN THIS FIELD, HOW DOES SOCIAL MEDIA ASSIST YOUR WORK AND DOES IT MARKET YOUR TRAINING SESSIONS EFFECTIVELY?
Social media platforms provide great means of communication both on the professional and personal levels in terms of making friends and acquaintances in addition to sharing and posting beautiful food photos, which have become a form of documentation that we can utilize nowadays.
Whenever I give a training session, I always emphasize the fact that in order to become a photographer, you should integrate photography with each and every aspect of your life and practice regularly. After all, “practice makes perfect”. Of course, the aforementioned should be accompanied with “optical feed” through observing more works which can add more to the photographers’ overall experience. In general, I advise prospective photographers to leave their comfort zone and innovate more.
In terms of trainees turnout, it makes me proud to see that my training sessions have large turnouts from all levels, as I give the basics first then practical training and it is quite pleasing to see the satisfactory progress trainees make.
LASTLY, I BELIEVE YOU ARE SEEKING TO FIND YOURSELF AN ACADEMIC POSITION IN THIS FIELD; WOULDN’T THAT RESTRAIN YOUR INNOVATION?
Only our fears cripple our creativity; the idea of me seeking an academic position will indeed come with many challenges but I believe I can give back ten-fold once I acquire the position I aspire to occupy and I will establish my academic school one day.
I also aspire to learn and educate myself more so I can achieve something big on the international level. I am currently working on this goal slow and steady, given that I may add to food photography additional fields that would serve my future endeavors.
Thank you Mohammed.