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Sahela Umama

Dhaka,

Bangladesh 
 

Sahela Umama completed her Bachelors in Economics from a public university in Dhaka and is currently pursuing a photography course at Pathshala South Asian Media School. 

What is photography to you and how did you get started with it?
 

Photography, to me, is more than just a hobby or a profession; it's my essence, my true calling. It's the language through which I express my deepest emotions, stories, and perspectives. Guided by the creative spirit of my elder brother who is also a photographer, I found my passion for storytelling through the lens. Also the nurturing embrace of the Narayanganj Photographic Club helped me a lot to go deeper into it, fueled by shared enthusiasm and collective inspiration.

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What impact do you think your childhood has on your photography?

 

Despite not coming from an artistic background, my childhood experiences, particularly spending time with my cousins, have had a significant impact on my photography style. I find joy in capturing their innocence and simplicity, which has influenced my preference for minimalistic photographs. Being comfortable around children has also helped me infuse my images with genuine emotion and authenticity.

What challenges do you face as an artist? How do you overcome low periods of motivation or creative ruts?

 

As a female photographer in Dhaka, one of the biggest challenges I face is the issue of safety. The city's streets can be unpredictable and sometimes unsafe, especially during early mornings or late nights. To navigate these challenges, I often need to rely on the presence of my male friends when venturing out to take photos, as a precautionary measure. 

Beyond the external challenges of safety and societal barriers, I also grapple with internal obstacles in my artistic journey. There are moments when I struggle to fully express myself through my photography, feeling constrained by my own limitations or expectations. This ongoing quest for self-expression pushes me to continuously explore new techniques, perspectives, and creative avenues, but it also presents challenges in the form of self-doubt and uncertainty.

Moreover, as an artist, I recognize the importance of unlearning and relearning, of breaking free from previous conventions and embracing new possibilities.

 

And speaking about creative ruts and low motivation, yeah sometimes I do feel low, without any reason maybe or maybe my conscious mind doesn't recognize it. In this situation, I sit with my emotions/grief/melancholy or whatever you call them. I accept these feelings and then process and resolve them rather than ignoring them. To me, the most important thing is to learn how to take a pause.

What inspires you the most?

What inspires me most is finding beauty in the mundane moments of life—the gentle sway of grass in the breeze, the soft glow of sunlight through a window, or the quiet rustle of leaves. It's these everyday sights that remind me of the simple joys and wonders around us, fueling my passion to capture them through my lens. Lately the vibrancy of concrete and urban life inspires me a lot—the bustling streets, the towering skyscrapers, and the dynamic energy of city living. Amidst the hustle and bustle, I find beauty in the geometric patterns of architecture, the interplay of light and shadow in urban landscapes, and the raw authenticity of street scenes.

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What gears do you generally use? What is your ideal piece of gear and why?

I use a Fujifilm X-A5, an entry-level camera paired with a versatile 15-45mm kit lens and a 35mm prime lens. Despite its entry-level status, I've been using this setup for over four years now and have found it more than capable of meeting my photography needs. In my opinion, there's no such thing as an 'ideal' piece of gear. As the saying goes, 'the best camera is the one you have with you.' I firmly believe in maximizing the potential of your current gear before considering an upgrade. Whether it's a professional-grade camera or an iPhone 6, what matters most is your creativity, vision, and ability to tell compelling stories through your images. Rather than being a slave to gear, I advocate for pulling 100% from your existing equipment and allowing your creativity to shine through.

Tell us about a photo you’re proud of.

I'm still on a journey to find a photo that I can truly say I'm proud of in the traditional sense. I believe my true pride will come when my images create a meaningful impact on society or even just one individual's life. As I continue to hone my craft, my goal is to capture moments that provoke thought, inspire change, and touch people's hearts. But if we talk about my favorite photo taken by myself, every photograph I have taken is like my own child, and I'm proud of each one, all of them are my favorite. They're a reflection of my inner self or deepest emotions, and I cherish them all equally.

How would you define photographic success?

I define photographic success not by accolades or recognition, but by the ability of my photographs to evoke emotions, provoke thought, and create a lasting impact on viewers. It's about capturing moments that resonate with others. Photographic success, to me, is measured by the ability to connect with people on a deeper level and to leave a meaningful impression long after the image has been viewed.

Any new projects that you are working on currently? What does the future in photography  look like for you? 

No, I'm not currently working on any new projects. I mostly have been focused on completing the assignments given in my photography class.

 

To me, the future of photography is dynamic, influenced by the ever-evolving landscape of technology and media. With the integration of AI and the emergence of new platforms, the possibilities for creative expression are expanding. However, alongside this excitement, there's an air of uncertainty about how these changes will unfold. Despite the uncertainties, I'm optimistic about the opportunities for collaboration, experimentation, and the continued evolution of photography as an art form.

Image copyrights © Sahela Akter Umama

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