Member in Focus | Lee Hoagland

Updated on Tuesday, January 31 2012

GPP Member In Focus | Lee Hoagland

Born in Washington DC in 1985, it was during the Obama campaign that Hoagland transitioned from a broad approach to photography into a more nuanced, narrative focused way of working. After graduating from school in 2008 he moved to Paris, where he would be based for the next 2 years. Whilst in France Hoagland focused mainly on identity and integration issues that the large immigrant population of the country was and is still dealing with to this day. 

Currently based in Abu Dhabi, Lee is pursuing several projects in the country and greater region.  To date his Clients include The New York Times, The Financial Times Magazine, The International Herald Tribune, The Times of London and The National to name a few.


1. What sparked your interest in photography?

Photography gave me the ability to express myself visually, which drew me initially.

2. When did you start shooting?

About 5 years ago I was painting and drawing on a daily basis. Most of my friend were photographers. I decided to get a small point and shoot camera to record scenes I may want to draw and/or paint later on. Quickly I noticed that I was spending the majority of my free time walking around and taking photos without any desire to transfer them into a drawing or a painting so I decided to make the switch.  

3. How often do you shoot?

For my personal projects my shooting depends on other factors.  I go through periods where I won't shoot, and instead think about what I'm doing, whats working, what isn't. Then I will have months where the camera is rarely out of my hands.  For editorial and commercial purposes I shoot practically everyday. 

4. Why do you love photography?

 Photography is a language everyone can understand and appreciate. 

5. Tell us about your last project? 

 I'm working on two projects at the moment.  One deals with daily life in Iraqi Kurdistan.  I'd like that body of work to show people a different side to the country.  Everyday in the media we're bombarded with images of blood and horror when in fact there is a beautiful side to the country. Of course there are problems in Kurdistan, corruption being among the most serious of issues, and the project deals with that, but overall I hope the work pleasantly surprises viewers. The other project is about people living under dire financial straits in the UAE, the contrast is shocking considering how much money is in the country. 

6. What gear do you own?

My gear consists primarily of Canon bodies and lenses. I prefer Canon products but am not someone who thinks one should only use this brand or that brand. Whatever works for you is the best gear to have.

7. Other than your camera, what piece of equipment couldn’t you live without?

My ipod, my hard drives, and my laptop.

8. Who are your biggest influences as a photographer?

Wow, I'm not sure we have enough space for that one!  I take inspiration from so many different sources.  Alec Soth, Elizabeth Griswold, John White, Zed Nelson, Simon Norfolk, Jean Michel Basquiat, William De Kooning, Matt Siber, Orianna Fallaci, the list goes on and on...I find it very helpful to be looking at art forms and reading books beyond photography and figuring out how to relate that back to what I'm doing.

9. What’s your best advice for someone starting out?

In my first year freelancing I would eat one of two things for dinner: either pasta with olive oil or pasta with butter. If you're not certain that this (photography) is what you want to do, then don't do it, because in the beginning its tough.   Beyond that I'd say the most important thing is to figure out what gets you excited and photograph that. Its crucial to always be working on a personal project of some sort, which means constantly motivating yourself. 

10. Where can we see your work?


Also see Hoagland present in this coming Slidefest!  Join us Wednesday February 8th at 7:30pm in the Dubai Knowledge Village Auditorium to see Hoagland alongside eight additional UAE based photographers talk about recent projects.  The event is free to attend, and you can find out more here.