Member in Focus | Hakim Boulouiz

Hakim Boulouiz is a Swiss photographer and Expert in Urban aesthetics with a multidisciplinary training. Following diplomas in Architecture and Filmmaking and a Master’s degree in Territory Planning, he completed a PhD analyzing the ambivalent relationship between urban design and cinematography. Today he is active in street photography all around the world with an eye for urban drama. The more Hakim moves, the more he discovers cities…and the more he becomes addicted to street photography. Each street is different. Each street has its own soul.

Hakim comes to Dubai at least once a year. GPP is so important for him. It motivates him every time and inspires him to do better. It’s like a second family. People are coming for the main event from everywhere; it’s a great learning experience for everyone.

1. What sparked your interest in photography?

Since my childhood, cameras have fascinated me! I remember my first camera (Russian-made).

I was enjoying playing with this small “toy” during my free time and taking pictures of everything and nothing…but I was very careful to not waste the film and developed all of the photos at the lab in my neighborhood.

2. When did you start shooting?

I was introduced to photography while studying architecture. I had to consistently take pictures of my different architectural projects and scale models. Step by step, I realized that this medium was more my vocation than an exercise. So I invested myself fully in the discipline for a few years-- attending trips, meetings, competitions, workshops. I absolutely love the art of photography. I find it convenient, efficient and smart. It makes me alive and happy.

By the nature of my studies, art has always been part of my courses. That’s why my interest in photography was formed naturally. Personally I think the spirit of art remains the same whatever the form of expression. Draw a house, paint stained glass, compose a photo—it’s always the same struggle for the artists. All forms have similar requirements but it is the means that change

3. How often do you shoot?

I take photos several times a week but not for the same reasons. When I’m at home in Geneva I usually make street photography during the weekends. I don’t consider the photography as work even though I’m a professional photographer. For me it remains a pleasure… a great pleasure!

4. Why do you love photography?

I like photography because it is an art. Actually I’m interested on all arts in general. But I prefer photography because it’s a clever medium, practical and accessible with a very fast and universal impact. For example, if you write a poem the reader has to read your language of expression. However, photography has no language limit. A photo is included and accepted across different horizons (at different scale of course depending on the culture, background, history...). In addition to photography (at least good photography), it is also poetry! Believe me, it’s true. It's not a joke.

5. What gear do you own? 

I have two types of equipment according to the mission. Currently I stroll between the studio and the street. These two places are quite different and call for different tools. In the studio, I work with Canon gear (full frame, such as the 5D ...), I also use the famous “Strobist” technique of many remote flashes...

For the Street (my main photography), I rather work with the Olympus OMD. I love this camera for this type of challenge because the quality is perfect and the OMD is light and compact enough that you can carry it with you at any time. I always have my camera with me because I never know what will happen on the streetcorner... I never know if I’ll see a horse, batman or my brother. So I have to be constantly ready.

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

It might be stupid, but other than my camera I have an obsession for a simple but very important thing: camera batteries. Especially for the street!

I really find it unfortunate to be faced with a great photographic situation and out of camera battery. This is just very stupid.

So I never go out without several batteries (4 or 5). Because I'm not sure how long until the next charging and because we should never trust the batteries. Their ability may change very quickly, especially with frequent temperature differences.

The second thing that never leaves my pocket is a small windshield for the lens. There’s nothing more regrettable than a photo well composed, with beautiful light and an amazing idea ... but all messed with traces of dirt or rain or the imprint of a finger.

7. Who are your biggest influences as a photographer?

I love the work of great photographers like Robert Frank, Eugene Smith, Bill Brandt or more recently Joel Meyerowitz, Alex Webb and Constantine Manos ... My sources of inspiration are not only limited to photographers. I also feed off of other art forms like painting from Pieter Brueghel, sculpture from Alberto Giacommetti, or cinematography from David Lynch. It’s important to imbibe great artistic work because it makes us grow enormously. I find that it also gives me courage, hope and energy to jump into the street.

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

For someone starting out I would like to say that it’s important to understand your gear in order to be ready and reactive in the street.

It’s also important to understand the difference between lenses. On the street, I personally work only with fixed lenses (28mm, 35mm or 50mm). There is no zoom in my bag because my zoom is my feet.

Always remember that art is the "how" and the "why".

Photographic technique is your “how”. It's your way of doing things.

Your “why” is the idea, the message ... the “why” are you a photographer? That's a question you must really work out in yourself.

Street photography also requires mental preparation (maybe more than studio photography). The street is actually sometimes dictated by the inspected unexpected?, by chance and human reactions. If you’re feeling comfortable with yourself, you’ll be able to get very close to your subject… Maybe one day we’ll have to practice street photography yoga before every shooting.

Finally, all street photographers should put on their best walking shoes, bring water and keep smiling in all situations…Never forget that your smile in the street is as important as the iso.

9. Where can we see your work?

Other exhibitions


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