THE LENS THAT TELLS STORIES

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Catching up with renowned travel and documentary photographer Rasha Yousif

In today’s world, each one of us happens to be a photographer. All thanks to the megapixels in our smart phones! But there are still a few amongst us, for whom photographs hold much more meaning than a selfie. These are the people who touch the soul of our society through their still images. Freezing time and documenting the places she travels to, is the renowned talent born and raised in Muharraq, Rasha Yousif. A master of street photography, Rasha breathes life into her photos, capturing the essence of the moment in its vibrant colours and publishing these multimedia stories by combining them with the right audio. Honoured with several awards from inside and out of Bahrain, this contestant from the TV show ‘I am a Nat Geo Photographer’ shared with BTW her life behind the lens.

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From a background in finance to the world of colours; how does it feel?

I express my emotions through photography. It is where I forget stress and focus on the diminutive and gorgeous things in life. I always try to challenge myself, to improve myself and my work, by which I keep my creativity alive.

How did it all begin?

Do you remember the first time you saw the world from behind the lens? I’ve always had a flair for this art but could never give it much attention with my busy schedule of studies and building my career. I bought my first DSLR in 2010 before going to an Exchange programme in the USA. I wanted to document the experience with good stills. It was during my week’s stay there that I realised my passion towards photography. It was amazing to watch the world look more interesting and beautiful behind the lens. Since then I have been obsessed with it and have started blogging my experience. Frankly, I read, write and travel just for photography.

Every picture you capture seems to reveal a story. How are you able to create such magic?

As a documentary photographer I consider myself a storyteller. I like to establish a bond with my subjects in order to capture their genuine expressions. I’m an emotional person and I think that reflects deeply in my work. For example, when I travelled to Djibouti, I felt obliged to share the living conditions of the nomads. As a person holding a camera it is my responsibility and joy to share the stories of my subjects with the world.

Tell us how you choose these culturally versatile destinations for your photo journey…

The world is full of beautiful travel destinations. I have a long wish list of places I want to visit. I enjoy reading about and researching different cultures and I find my inspiration from books and documentaries. I also like to surround myself with likeminded travellers to stay enthused. It is now easy to stay connected with the travel community through blogs and social media.

You are a great fan of Ibn Battutah… tell us more…

My biggest travel inspiration is Ibn Battutah. I’m encouraged by his knowledge-seeking journeys. I started following in his footsteps and challenged myself to tour more and perceive more like the greatest traveller of all time – Ibn Battutah! Slowly but surely I’m getting there and adding more targets to my list. After all, it is not about the number of countries visited but the lessons learnt from these cultures that matter.

What do you like the most about travelling to these destinations?

I love meeting people from different parts of the world. Having simple chats with random people is the best way to shatter any misconceptions they may have, especially with me being a Muslim from an Arab nation. I can’t remember the number of times people have asked me about Bahrain and Islam. I believe that we are all ambassadors of our countries and we have to represent it with utmost respect and pride.

unnamed (1)Why do you like travelling solo?

I love travelling solo for many reasons. I enjoy researching new destinations through roads less travelled and that comes with its own challenges. Therefore I can’t risk inviting friends to a destination I’m not familiar with. Besides, I like travelling without fixed plans. I found that while roving solo I get to meet remarkable people along the way. It is also an opportunity to meditate. A book and a camera are myultimate travel partners.

How about your multimedia projects?

Multimedia photography is merging audio with still photographs to create a compelling storyline. As a documentary photographer when I intend to make an audio slideshow, I consider myself a visual storyteller therefore I spend time discovering the environment of the storyline and listening carefully to ambient sounds. I do hope that the viewers get to sense the environment of the story through the visual and the auditory. Working on these projects is real fun and challenging at the same time.

Of all the different exhibitions you have hosted so far, which has been the most challenging one in terms of capturing photographs?

Sleeper Class happens to be the most challenging. It was tricky trying to jump from one platform to another at an Indian railway station while photographing. I had so many good photographs in that series and choosing the best from them was too difficult. This is the collection I am deeply in love with and super proud of!

How much do you think has your work been successful in contributing to today’s society?

I consider my work successful when the actual message gets delivered. I feel satisfied to see people reacting positively to my stories. In few years, I expect to make a difference in the society, spreading awareness about human conditions in Africa or the social issues of the Middle East, through my images.

What do you want to do with your art?

I participate in art exhibitions whenever there is a suitable opportunity. Occasionally I conduct workshops and also do family photo shoots. And sometime in the future, I hope to organise cultural photo tours. Follow the works of

Rasha on her official page:

http://www.rashayousif.com and Instagram:@RSHRSHO