Ruksana Hussain moved to Dubai in 2011 to start a new life and fell into photography while travelling. When National Geographic did not come running, she decided to pursue it more locally, after work and on weekends, within the confines of her own bedroom with self-portraits and cajoling friends to take part in her personal projects. When she started being offered payment for her work, she decided to take a more active role in it professionally.
1. What sparked your interest in photography?
I was introduced to photography when I was looking for a professional photographer for an event. Like a typical amateur, I was drawn to depth-of-field and bokeh photographs. Unlike most photographers, I never played with a camera as a child. Being a self-professed luddite, I also didn't want to have to do anything with cameras or gear, so I put off photography for a while. Later I moved to Dubai to start over, started travelling, remembered the pretty pictures from the event so bought a DSLR to document my travel pictures, and just started experimenting with the camera.
2. When did you start shooting?
April 2011, on a trip to Jordan. I had beautiful historical landscapes to play with and fellow travelling companions to take pictures of. Before the trip I got a 10-minute crash course from my youngest brother (a hobbyist) about camera settings and composition. I shot for 3 days continuously, but it was a great primer for a beginner.
3. How often do you shoot?
I go through phases, so that depends. Sometimes I'll do a few personal shoots all within the same week. When I have client shoots, I'm too busy to devote specific days shooting, so I'll just take out the camera and shoot anything random. Some of these never get downloaded or edited, and that doesn't matter, as long as I take care of the shooting itch!
4. Why do you love photography?
It's the only hobby/career I've had so far which I have not gotten bored of yet! On a more serious note, photography is a great creative outlet for me. Sometimes when I'm stressed, I'll turn to photography and if I have a good picture, I'll feel like I'm on top-of-the-world!
5. What gear do you own?
5D MarkII, a few prime lenses, and a couple of strobes.
6. Other than your camera, what piece of equipment couldn’t you live without?
My iPhone! I'd love to say I'm an instragram-aholic, but the truth is... I'm too lazy to take notes, which means that I take pictures of just about everything. It also means I have a lot of apps.
7. Who are your biggest inﬂuences as a photographer?
Garry Winogrand, Erwin Blumenfeld, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Liebovitz, Steven Meisel, David Alan Harvey.... so a lot of masters. To confront my technophobia and pick up a camera, my youngest brother was an important influence.
I am also heavily inspired by art and music of all genres - they elicit mood and emotions in me, and I tend to borrow heavily from that. I love to translate these intangible feelings to a photograph.
8. What’s your best advice for someone starting out?
I see a lot of novice photographers starting out who need accolades or pat-on-your-backs to get them going. While encouragement is a great motivator, I think criticism is key for learning new things or improving your craft. I remember reading about the masters and how their editors would just cut up their work in pieces, and this forced them to hone their craft. I wish I had a mentor like that when I was starting out! So always accept criticism with an open mind, and at the same time, be ready to fail a LOT because it's a very steep, never-ending learning curve.