In Focus with Asim Farooki
“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera”, a quote by Yousuf Karsh, fits perfectly to the story of Asim Farooki, a New York based South Asian photographer. Asim was born in the city of Lahore, Pakistan. He traveled extensively in his early years which helped him get exposure to different environments, places, people and cultures. A photographer is not someone who knows how to operate a camera, he is not a technician. A photographer is an artist. They look at the world with various dimensions and perspectives and find a story in everything they capture or look at, through their lens. Asim has a massive collection of breath taking portraits and landscapes, he loves capturing nature in its simplest form as he believes manipulating (over editing) nature is a crime.
In less than 5 years, Asim has managed to embark his name in some big international events working with well-known celebrities and photographers. Asim was the Honoree for Asian Heritage Night ’13 with the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center for Photography. He has made considerable cover story contributions for Stardust and Dar Life in South Africa and has won several photography contests and awards. He has been the official photographer for several drama serials and movies, including a famous Pakistani Drama, “Jackson Heights.”
Asim has earned his way up the ladder, and seems to have a promising career as a photographer. He has been working for Bollywood, Hollywood and Lollywood for quite some time now. Asim has had the privilege of photographing celebrities like Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Anil Kapoor, Sonu Sood, Imran Khan (actor), Mawra Hocane, Amina Sheikh and several others. He has been quite determined and focused towards his work, resulting in him being an inspiration for many young photographers today.
He can be approached through his website www.asimfarooki.com or his Facebook page Asim Farooki Photography. Let’s see what he has in store for all photography lovers as we bring Asim Farooqi “In Focus.”
Mirza: What kind of a photographer do you consider yourself to be?
Asim: I consider myself to be a visual artist and Fine Art Photography is what I believe I’d like to categorize myself with. I truly believe each frame cannot be just a picture; it has to be able to grab the viewer and make an instant connection that lasts a long time after turning the page. Concert photography is another passion as well.
M: How did you break into fashion photography?
A: The importance of details in a fashion portrait cannot be stressed enough. Seeing many amazing fashion photographers over the years with Lindsay Adler being one of the Top Names in the US, being able to assist her a few times and learning from her, has truly been a privilege. I wanted to take my style from my other work and apply it here, something not very common with South Asian fashion scene.
M: What did you do to prepare you for being a professional photographer?
A: A lot playing around and just quietly practicing. Truth be told, it’s not like I woke up one day and said, heck lets do photography. I’ve spent countless years practicing. I am not a believer of books or videos for learning. I simply get out there and shoot. Then go over the mistakes made and see how to not repeat them.
M: What type of preparation do you do before a shoot?
A: One can never prepare to walk on set or location without a lot of homework. Yes, its true, certain projects are on a deadline and pushed on at the last minute, otherwise, I personally need to sit down with the parties involved and simply talk on the concept, vision, audience and most importantly their belief in what they want shot. Under no circumstances, will I agree to shoot or promise a project unless I feel comfortable knowing 95% of the variables involved.
M: What are some things you do to push your creativity? Do you think Photography can be learned by books or is it a passion that comes from within?
A: Like I mentioned before, using a camera can be learned from books, NOT photography. True Photography is purely an art, which can only be derived from passion, vision, or simply imagination.
M: From where do you get your inspiration?
A: Like I said it before, having a huge personal life change, it made me truly appreciate the little things and not take anything for granted. Be it people, celebrities or everyday people that one may bump into on the street, everyone is a gift from God, we just need a little time to realize it. I try to keep an eye out and anyone that intrigues me, I try not to hesitate in making a connection.
M: When you go on one of your travels, what equipment do you take with you? Why?
A: Laptop, camera, lenses, batteries are a must, and however need to pack lightly too so a few lenses get a top priority. Also, it’s important to have my music and headphones to add a soundtrack to my vision
M: Whose work has influenced you most?
A: I’ve been privileged to have met and learned directly from quite a few amazing big names in the US, such as Lindsay Adler, Craig Lamere, F-Stoppers group. Also, I have some amazing friends I’ve met through our passion for the art, whose work is second to none, just waiting to be discovered
M: What does photography mean to you?
A: Photography is not about pictures being clicked. It’s solely about treasuring that one precise moment in time and holding onto it for generations. It is a gift that shouldn’t be devalued as its becoming due to easy access of camera equipment.
M: How important is it for a photographer to “connect” with his subjects to bring out their true self?
A: Without any chemistry between a photographer and their subject and I am not talking about love or anything [laughs], but a connection or a comfort level for both to leave any hesitation so art can be created. If there is hesitation or nervousness from either party, it can become uncomfortable very quickly and all skill and talent goes out the door.
M: Colour vs. Black and White. Which is your preference?
A: Hmm, color vs. B&W, I love both equally. However, one has to be able to full utilize each genre without compromising the subject in perspective, such as fashion and designer clothing in B&W, that’s just sad for the hard work put in by the designer.
M: Being an experienced photographer, what is the most challenging part for you?
A: Staying grounded and just accepting the appreciation is a major hurdle for me. One cannot be afraid to adapt to the constant changing field of photography, the laws of Darwin apply here too.
M: Who is your personal favorite Pakistani model or actress/actor who you think is the most photogenic and has a camera face?
A: For Pakistani model or actress I am a big fan and truly feel Pakistan is blessed with quite a few photogenic face and in particular some those simply deliver a package of grace and beauty includes Maya Ali, Zhalay Sarhadi, and Esheeta Syed.
M: You have worked in Bollywood. How was the experience? Who have you photographed?
A: I’ve truly been blessed with my experience with Bollywood as watching some of the biggest names on screen to meeting and being able see and capture their personal side up close and personal. Truly an opportunity, I do not take lightly. This list can get big, [laughs]. The list includes, Ranbir Kapoor and parents, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Sonu sood, SRK, Abhishek Bachchan, Malaika Arora Khan, Honey Singh, Vishal-Shekhar, Mika Singh, DJ Aqeel, Pallavi Sharda, Anil Kapoor, Imran Khan (actor), Abhishek Kapoor, the list can go on.
M: If you compare Pakistani media industry with Bollywood, what are the pros, cons and differences you have experienced?
A: I wish this wasn’t the case but thus far Bollywood has been more appreciative and receptive of my work as I believe Pakistani media plays it safe and stays consistent with the same photographer names for reliable or whatever reason. That is completely acceptable and fine, just unfortunate for the newer generation to make their mark. Also, while working with Jackson height and a few other projects, the wide circulation of my images by reputable sources, eliminating my logo and pasting theirs own, something that is simply not right.
M: Do you believe a photographer needs to be artistic?
A: Without artistry or creativity, you are completely limited and simply creating an image that is bland. So yes, its crucial!
M: What does fashion and glamor mean to you?
A: Simply its all about the beauty and appreciation, be it a person, designer clothing, or whatever, its simply giving it special attention and bringing it out for anyone and everyone to appreciate!
M: Your favorite Pakistan, Indian or international model, male or female?
A: Adriana Lima and Ayyan Ali
M: Is your field challenging and tough?
A: Like anything else in life, everything is challenging and one must be ready to evolve to fit the needs of their clients and their respective field(s).
M: What have been your biggest struggle in your photography career?
A: Dealing with people asking and wanting free work. When was the last time free work paid bills and let one survive life. Also, one’s portfolio must be strong enough to open one’s door, not personal favors or exchange of services. Yes, that is my biggest pet peeve
M: Of all the images you’ve made so far in your career, which is your favorite and why?
A: I have quite a few favorites pictures and I’ll share some of them. Picture of Deepika Pudakone. Simply caught a moment of elegance and a timeless classic frame, which went on to be published in STARDUST.
M: What is your favorite lens?
A: Sigma Art Series Line 35 and 50. Also the 70-200
M: What was your first camera kit?
A: Nikon D70 was my first dSLR I picked up during medical school and I moved away from film.
M: Are you a nature lover?
A: Heck yea, personal favorite scuba diving. Need to appreciate the true beauty the planet has to offer.
M: Which indian celebrities and magazines have you worked with globally?
A: Thus far, I have been blessed with being part of 2 cover stories in STARDUST. The first cover was Deepika Pudakone and the second cover, was an entire issue on Sonu Sood. Little fact, both issues wouldn’t have happened ever, if Sonu Sood didn’t discover me. He solely is responsible for that accolade. A third cover was with an International DJ, DJ Goddess based out of Canada who’s becoming a force to be reckoned with in Dar Life, a magazine of out Africa.
M: How was your experience doing a shoot of the “jackson heights” cast?
A: Having been a fan of Mehreen Jabbar’s work, this was a treat. The cast couldn’t be any bigger with the legend of Nouman Ijaz and Aamina Sheikh along with the amazing Marina Khan, Ali Kazmi, and many other amazing people. Overall, the experience was great and I was able to through my pictures I believe reach to a new audience in Pakistan. Personally, I walked away with a lifelong bond with Nouman bhai and Ali K, yet it only took me 3 days to literally say hi to him because I was so intimidated.
M: How did you make it to this level that you now cover bollywood events, capture Deepika Padukone, Sonu Sood, Abhishek Bachchan, Strings, Imran Khan, Anil Kapoor? How did you manage to reach them all? Share you interactive experience with these celebrities over all.
A: It all started with the first concert I covered for their last tour of Noori in the US. Out of all the cities and pictures, they loved my pic set and tweeted away. This was the first step. Following that, I was humbled when approached by one of the longest running Bollywood media company out of the tri-state Asian Variety Show to shoot a private evening with the acclaimed Bollywood Director, Abhishek Kapoor (kai Po Che). This became a close relationship and I was given opportunities to meet and be able to work with Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka, Anil Kapoor, Imran Khan (actor) etc. It was a humbling experience to see how down to earth they truly are and much easier to talk to than one would expect. My other amazing opportunities were through one of the leading concert promoters in the NYC area, being the company ARIZ. Originally, I started as a photographer with them, now officially helping with all aspects of the shows and am liaison for the talent as soon as they arrive in NY till their departure. This gave me some amazing opportunities, including Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Vishal-Shekhar, Mika, DJ Aqeel, Noori, Imran Khan (singer), among others. I’ve been truly blessed to bond with most artists I’ve crossed paths with and my work itself has helped mold the friendships. At the end of the day, when you see these amazing people Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram your work, how does it get any better when Amitabh B. tweets your pics? If I were to sum it up, I’m humbled and eternally grateful with all the personalities I’ve crossed paths with, especially, Sonu Sood, Nouman Ijaz and my eternal favorite band Strings.
M: You have also covered Fashion Pakistan Week, do you like indoor photography more as compared to outdoor or vice versa? Isn’t light an issue for indoor photography at times?
A: Be it indoor or outdoors, it’s all about light manipulation and to have it work for you. Indoors are trickier when not shooting in a controlled studio environment, so fashion shows like Fashion Pakistan is not an easy task to cover. It is all dependent on multiple variables such as lighting, seating, stage, etc so not something one can always find favorable conditions.
M: Looking at your work you capture women’s beauty with such taste and class, what are some things you keep in mind when you are taking women’s portraits?
A: Women aren’t objects plain and simple. Responsibility in giving direction is high to make amazing work with them while treating them with the utmost respect. This also goes back to the previous question about chemistry. If the comfort level is established quickly, there is no awkwardness and both the photographer and model can experiment and have fun while shooting. Personally, I like to shoot to try to emphasize the individual beauty and highlight features we forget we possess in today fast paced and hectic lifestyle.
M: Can you share any upcoming project of yours you would want your followers to know about?
A: Upcoming projects include the editorial with Ali Xeeshan, the next concert series with Imran Khan, followed by Ankit Tiwari. Also, a few personal projects are in the works that surely should be exciting. I really hope to venture and bring my work and style to Pakistan and be able to help portray Pakistan in a brighter and more positive image worldwide.
M: Do you have any last message for young photographers?
A: Believe in yourself and if you want to pursue photography, follow it with full passion. Never hesitate to reach out to mentors, photographers that inspire, for if they are truly passionate about the art of photography, they will love to help and not brush you off due to their own insecurities. The sky is not the limit, so unleash your superpowers through photography. Last but not least, never stop dreaming, I surely never imagined all this, but its happening.
Personally, just wanted to take a moment to thank Mirza Omer for this incredible opportunity.