interview with my favourite photographer

The first photo clicked by Ali Ghorbani was during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 26 years later, he is one of the top photographers in Asia, putting his skills to work for luxury weddings, top brands and VIP clients. Meet Ali G:

Can you describe yourself in three words and tell us where you come from? Patient, passionate and persistent, I think these are important elements to have as a photographer. I was born in Iran and my family moved to the UK and France during the Iran-Iraq war, and eventually making it to USA.  And in 2001, I came to Hong Kong.

Where do you feel home more? Hong Kong or USA? My home at the moment is Hong Kong. I have lots of friends here and I’m working on my photography career. My second home is the US because that’s where my family and childhood friends live and I got my education there.

What were your first impressions of HK? When I first came to Hong Kong, it was a challenge adapting to the hot and humid weather. But soon I discovered the energy and the efficiency of this great city, and I fell in love with it.  I always had a side for adventure, so Hong Kong became ‘home’ really fast!

What is your first memory of a camera? It was during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Our family had to travel there for our green card interview, and my uncle gave me a 35 mm film camera. “This is a historic moment, you should take photos” he said.  Ofcourse, the fall of the Wall symbolized the end of the Cold War and a new sense of hope for the world.  I witnessed it and I even broke pieces of the wall with a hammer. It was just overwhelming with emotions, noise, lights, and so on.  That was the start of my photographic style: capturing people and their emotions.

What made you change your career from engineering? I wanted to do something more with my life. I wanted to explore Asia and try my hand at business, so I started a trading company importing chicken feet into China. As time passed, I kept getting drawn back into my old passion: Photography. In the beginning, it was really tough, as I didn’t have a portfolio of work in Hong Kong. It was a huge struggle knocking on doors, working thru long nights and being persistent, but eventually, I got my first paid shoot.

Did you ever picture yourself as a photographer? No, but I think photography is something that chooses you; you don’t choose photography.  And as Joe McNally, one of my favourite photographers of all time, says, “We make pictures. At the end of the day, we create something potentially significant that did not exist at the beginning of the day. We go forward, despite the uncertainty.  Because this is an act of love and passion, which defies reason and prudence.”

Tell me about your work as a photographer: Half of my work is weddings; I’m passionate about people.  Since these images have such strong emotional impact and importance, I feel it’s a great privilege capturing these memories for the families and their future generations.  I also work for major brands such as LVMH group, Chopard and Porsche, especially when it comes to their VIP events.  And finally, I shoot corporate and personal portraits. 

How do you keep your ‘eye’ fresh and stay creative? My personal passion is photographing artists and dancers.  I am always in awe of their skills and talents, they do incredible things. In order to grow as an artist yourself, you have to have personal projects, you know, things that make you get up at 4:00AM for!  

Any special projects you would like to share with us? One project which I’m very proud of has been the annual charity calendar which I dedicate to “Women Helping Women Hong Kong”, a Hong Kong based charity. This project brings together models, dancers, makeup artists, set designers and stylists to create photos of women with an artistic element.  Some women’s calendars take away the power of women and reduce them to sexual objects, but my goal is to empower women. Empowering women to inspire others, which is also one of the goals of the charity.   Here’s the website of the charity:

Is there someone that you would really like to photograph? Madonna, definitely.  She has been a pioneer in many ways and has always spoken her mind without giving a damn about what people think.  Whether you agree or not with the content is not the point, but the fact that she dares to say and do those things inspires me as an artist. I would love to photograph her raw side, meaning something that most people haven’t seen before.

Who are the most famous people you’ve photographed? Kevin Spacey, Uma Thurman, Keanu Reeves, Shirley Maclaine, Christopher Plummer and Victoria Beckham, to name a few.

What is the challenge of being a photographer in Hong Kong? It’s a very competitive market, and most locals choose to work at lower prices, not realizing they are actually hurting themselves and everyone else in the long run.  It’s also more challenging to penetrate the local wedding market if you don’t speak Chinese.  

What is your future vision? My goal is to expand the destination wedding business by putting together an elite team of photographers and videographers.  I am currently speaking to investors and looking for top videographers, especially for Indian weddings, which are 4-5 day multi-million dollar productions.  To produce high quality and consistent quality is my top priority because my target is luxury weddings. 

What is some advice you would have for younger photographers? Very simple, shoot what you are passionate about and stay with it!

Visit Ali Ghorbanis site here, his Instagram account is @aligphoto and also check his Facebook page here <3

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