Lights, Camera, DAUDI! That’s how I think the saying should go sometimes. If you’ve ever worked with this extraordinary photographer featured here, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It seems only natural to think about Daudi, the creator of Daudi X Photography, when talking about camera and light. Daudi is extremely creative with both. For him, photography is not just a job. It is his art, it his passion. He not only expresses the way he sees the world through this art, but he also brings pieces of it to us, capturing special moments and bringing out what is unique in each of his subjects. Daudi covers a range of photo types but his greatest fascination is with people. He is probably best known for his work in the dance community. His professionalism and attention to detail in his work is impressive, as is his friendly, charismatic nature. While Daudi has spent much of his time showcasing the talent and beauty of the artists that he photographs, it is my pleasure to finally celebrate Daudi’s talent and inspiring story with all of you. Thank you Daudi for your enthusiastic and thoughtful responses.
Tasleem: Why did you choose photography? What does it mean to you?
Daudi: I love people. They have interesting faces that portray different emotions and moods. I love to capture these genuine emotions. Photography is an art that allows me to do that.
Photography is also my creative outlet. I create photos by first visualizing what I want the end product to look like and then I set out to make that a reality. Composition, controlling lighting, and the character I want to portray play a big role in this. Hence, photography is an art and I am a digital artist.
I still get goose bumps when I take photos.
Have you always been into photography?
Since I was a kid, I had a camera with me most of the time. I just loved taking photos. I was fascinated by capturing images. So I kept up the photography from then on as a hobby. It was not until my freshman year at university, however, that I bought my first professional DSLR, a Nikon 35mm Classic. In my bag was a 50mm, a 200mm Zoom, 3X Tele converter, and a flash. All my pocket money at university was from my photography work. I shot lots of portraits and campus parties at that time.
What distinguishes your photos or approach to photography from others?
Photography is a language of light. Every photographer out there has their preferences or style of shooting and using light – whether it be by using light shaping tools or natural light. My preference is to use light shapers to curve out my image. I use light to illuminate, and shadows to add definition to an image. The majority of my subjects are people. By shaping and controlling light, I intend to highlight and direct the viewer’s eye to the area of interest. My mentality is that in every shoot I do, I am looking for the ‘cover shot’, and there can only be one cover shot. So in any given environment, I am looking for that angle, that background that best highlights my subject. I aim to remove the clutter that will compete with my subject in the photo. When I have my camera in hand, I get excited. I try to make my subject feel relaxed so they can give me their best. This will show up in the photos.
So if someone is camera shy, how do you get them to relax for the camera?
Having a huge lens pointed at you is not easy to deal with, especially if you are not used to it. In that instant, one realizes that they are being exposed. The natural tendency is to become shy instantly. So I like to get the subject involved with me, not with the camera. I have a conversation with him or her, and I make sure to learn something about them in this way. What are their interests, what are their hobbies? You will be surprised how one all of a sudden jumps out of the shy shell and their eyes light up as they tell you about what moves them. This creates trust, and they show you the side of them you ideally should capture. The best photos are the uninterrupted ones, those without pauses. If I encounter a very shy person, I will set up my camera on a tripod, engage the subject, and keep snapping when I see the photo moment, but without having the camera up to my eye. This seems to completely relax the person being photographed and saves us from getting a bunch of shots of those nervous smiles we don’t want. The other trick I use is to role-play. I get my subject to pick a character and act it out.
Any particular photo experiences stand out in your head because of the subject or something about the outcome of the photos that you didn’t expect?
I have lots of rich experiences to list here. However, there are some people who are ‘natural’ in front of the camera. Two such talents are the little daughters of one of our local salsa dancers- Shalini. These girls understand how to play for the camera! My other favorite talent is Magna Gopal. I can never get tired of doing shoots with her. We have done so many character roles and she pulls them off impressively each time. I also love shooting action performances since the actors are in their element and aren’t paying so much attention to me but are just doing what they do best. Adolfo Indacochea, Charlene Rose, Alien Ramirez, Terry & Cecil, and Eddie Torres are among so many of my favorite talents who give me so many amazing photo moments! Also, Kristi Foster stands out to me for her amazing flexibility and gravity defying leaps. My camera was loving that!
Have you ever found yourself on the other end of the camera in a photo shoot, and if so, how did that experience help you with taking your own photos of others?
Yes, I have. Every photographer needs to be in front of the lens to gain an understanding of how your subject feels . It gives one an appreciation of how to communicate with the client and helps you as the photographer better understand how to get the subject to give you what you need. To get that expression you want from your talent, you don’t just simply ask for it. You get them to produce it through a variety of tricks including telling them jokes, giving them praise and sometimes, even by shocking or surprising them. Most importantly, make your talent feel relaxed so they can open up honestly with their expressions. I do take lots of selfies to show my potential clients that photography is indeed fun.
Who are your mentors as far as photography goes?
My mentor is Valentin Behrenger! I have also learned a lot from Joe McNally and Calvin Hollywood. These guys do magic with their cameras and the digital dark room! I took Behrenger on a tour of Vancouver. That was an amazing time!
Do you have any photo fantasies? Haha! I mean, is there something you’ve always wanted to try with your photography that you haven’t yet done?
Well, besides dancing and photography, my other hobbies are sky diving, snowboarding and travelling. So I would LOVE to do a sky diving shoot mid air. I would also love to get into travel photography, so I have this idea of doing a shoot of our mutual salsa friend Cheyenne who now lives in Dubai. It would be great to go out in the Dubai desert and get shots of Cheyenne dressed as the character from the movie “The Mummy”. Haha!
Sounds fun! I want to see that!
How has photography influenced the way you look at things in your world outside of the lens?
I don’t know how to turn off the photographer in me. As I said earlier, I like shooting people
because I find people interesting. One will have interesting eyes, another will have very captivating facial expressions. Some have well sculptured facial features that can capture light in interesting ways. Everyone is unique and fascinating. When I look at people, I keep visualizing how I can bring out what is amazing in them – how I can bring out their special feature. Sometimes I sit by a roadside and just enjoy watching people walk by in their natural in-the-moment expressions. Point a camera at someone and they go into ‘pause mode’, trying to smile and pose. But that takes away that natural look. So as someone always behind the lens, I tend to be aware of my body language and I try to relax since I am always studying others. Because of photography, I always see the photo moments in the motions of people around me. Half the time I kick myself for not capturing such beautiful moments that pass me by because I am not carrying my camera with me!
But most of the time, my camera and I are inseparable.
“Working with Daudi is effortless. When he has a vision for a shot, he comes completely prepared. At the same time, he’s also very open to suggestions by his models and can often take a simple idea and really make it something special. Daudi’s desire to create and capture a beautiful moment is inspiring.”- Magna Gopal