Today, we're speaking with Hussain AlMoosawi. An Emirati photographer, infographic artist, and self-proclaimed cook, he's constantly exploring themes in the urban landscape of the UAE. He has worked at The National as an infographic artist, with his experience as a graphic designer extending into his work as a photographer, particularly in his series exhibited during Photo Week 2017, "Under Construction: Fences of the UAE".
GPP: Why does Hussain AlMoosawi wake up in the morning?
Hussain AlMoosawi: I wouldn’t lie, what wakes me up these days is the thought of brewing my spicy chai. However, the chai only gets me started on my real goal, which is to create and witness the birth of new and meaningful things. We all wake up, read the news, go through our social media feeds, or even read a book, but all these are forms of inputs to our brain. My passion resides in the output. A meaningful output, not the type that simply mirrors the input, but that which creates its own value.
GPP: How and when did you get started in photography?
HA: It goes back to my teenage years. I used to be more into video, but I liked to play with all kinds of gadgets. I received my first photography training in college using a Pentax K1000. I got my first DSRL about 13 years ago and at that stage I was more into photographing people. My real start in developing my approach was in Melbourne in 2010. That’s when I discovered what I really wanted out of photography as a medium.
GPP: How do infographics connect with photography?
HA: This is a complex question. To simplify my answer, I’ll explain the connection in relation to my approach. My photography relies on scanning areas street by street in an objective fashion, from which I collect what I would call “raw data”. Most of my individual photos, no matter how aesthetically pleasing, do not communicate the overall message of my project. The message is only achieved when I combine these photos as one body of work. This is similar to infographics, where individual figures and data do mean something but it’s only when you combine them together as an infographic that they result in a meaningful body of knowledge and tell a story.
I also happen to utilize many design techniques that are not necessarily limited to infographics when it comes to my photography. Some of these elements are alignment, uniformity and subtraction.
GPP: Your series “Under Construction: Fences of the UAE” received recognition and praise at Photo Week 2017. What inspired this particular series?
HA: It’s possibly frustration- the frustration of looking at our neighborhoods and seeing how they all look the same at many levels. I slowly started experiencing some joy when passing by these fences, because they didn’t conform to existing visual rules.
I believe it’s important to be angry or have negative emotions sometimes. These kinds of emotions could help you turn things around and create beautiful things.
GPP: What are some themes in the UAE that you want to capture with your camera?
HA: I have so many themes and subjects brewing in my head but none have made it to the camera yet. I’m a slow processor.
One of the themes is photographing delivery motorbikes. They’re everywhere here! They’re mobile and not part of the built environment, but are a crucial element of our urban and social landscape, whether they’re parked or driven on the road. Each bike comes with a box and these boxes all look different. Most carry out the branding of the restaurant. There are so many challenges when it comes to photographing such a subject, though. The first question that comes to mind is whether to capture them with or without the driver. I’ve investigated both possibilities and both have their challenges.
GPP: What started your interest in urban typologies and how are you exploring it further?
HA: Urban typologies are nothing but a reflection of the way I look at the world as a designer. Identifying, organizing, and categorizing photos to form typologies help me make sense of my environment. It’s a form of personal therapy.
Also, I must say having lived in a city such as Melbourne for four years with its vibrant urban identity, served me well in terms of having plenty of material to photograph. Melbourne was a catalyst and training ground for my photographic approach.
GPP: Any chance of shooting analogue soon?
HA: Yes, but mainly for personal use – particularly to shoot portraits. I love what film grain does to skin tones. I do own a film camera that’s compatible with my digital lens lineup. It’s just a matter of getting a roll of film and shooting. But who knows, these personal clicks might take me somewhere.
GPP: Where in the world would you like to shoot next?
HA: Japan and Hong Kong are my next photographic destinations. Also Berlin. Whenever I visit this city, I realize there’s a lot for me to photograph there. Last but not least, Rome.
GPP: Any other new projects coming up?
HA: Always. There’s enough in the UAE’s evolving urban landscape to keep me busy for the next 10 years.
GPP: So you say you cook like an Italian Nonna… can you tell us what your go-to dish is?
HA: Pasta with baby tomatoes and peas. It sounds simple – and it is – but to achieve a delicious outcome you need to be sensible about the ingredients and their chemistry. This dish has lots of good qualities: it’s preservatives-free, it’s vegetarian, it has a good nutritional value, and it’s a one-pot dish, which means less time doing the dishes! It doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to cook, including preparation time. Have I already said it’s yummy? And it’s all thanks to the final drizzle of olive oil.
Learn more about Hussain’s work here.
Follow Hussain’s work on Instagram here.