Minhaj Ahmed

University: University of Portsmouth

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Portraiture

Websitewww.minhajahmedphoto.com

Artist StatementSanctuary explores the psychological we have with our hair. Taking clues from commercial fashion and beauty imagery, the hair can provide a level of comfort and security we associate with the sanctuary of the home, and when damaged or mishandled, we find ourselves exposed and vulnerable. 

From the series Sanctuary

From the series Sanctuary

What are some standout moments from your time at university? When I look back to my time in university there are a few standout moments such as my first shot for my final year project Sanctuary. Even after all the pre planning I did for it, I wasn’t sure if it would be any good but it turned out better expected. Another was most definitely when someone bought my first piece of work and ended up being the front cover for a Fashion and Textiles journal.

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? My work falls in the genre of portraiture but it splits off into fashion and beauty as well.

From the series Sanctuary

From the series Sanctuary

What themes do you find yourself exploring? The theme I find myself exploring is the body, I find its representation of it in fashion and beauty intriguing. How the representation has changed from the 50’s to the present, the rise of plus sized models and unretouched beauty photos. However I have been currently focusing on hair, from Sanctuary and my current one which I am working on. How we shape hair into what we want or let it loose and have it do its own thing. From volume, colour to style, all of it fascinates me.

What would you like for your viewer to learn from you work? What I want people to learn from Sanctuary is that hair is so much more than we have on our heads, it can be art as well. Constructing it into all kinds of shapes and designs.

From the series Sanctuary

From the series Sanctuary

Sanctuary is a fairly small body of work in terms of the number of final images. Why is that? I kept Sanctuary to 3 images because I really just wanted a small amount of strong images for my final project. I only did 5 shoots throughout the entire project, I really focused on making the best image I could before picking up the camera and that took a lot of time, from hair and makeup to making sure the lighting was correcting. By the time I started properly editing down the images one by one, I realised that for me 1 image wasn’t enough, anything above 3 wasn’t really working for me so 3 images were just right.  

Can you tell us about the border and circular aspect of your images? It was at the start of the research process of Sanctuary where I was looking at Tondo paintings and I came across the circular border, I honestly really love the aesthetic behind it but I wasn’t entirely sure but I came across a photographer called Bettina Von Zwehl. She did a series called Made Up Love Song. I knew after that the circular borders would work with series and draw more focus to the hair in the image. 

From the series Sanctuary

From the series Sanctuary

Where did you draw inspiration from when making this work? I took a lot inspiration from Greg Kadel series called All Rise and an S Magazine editorial by Rankin. I also started looking at hair stylists and the work they did for editorials as well as commercials. Although without a doubt my biggest inspiration was Julia Hetta, I normally shoot portraits with a lot of light but after looking at some of her work I knew I had to go the opposite direction. I wanted these portraits to be dark and have little light so the sole focus would be the hair. 

What does the future hold for you and your work? Right now I am finishing off my last project on hair called Untamed but after that I am going to focus on the male and female body in beauty. Also at the moment I am looking at ways to push my work in a different direction through painting and video but my current focus right now is finishing off Untamed and getting my work out there. 

From the series Sanctuary

From the series Sanctuary

Your focus in these images is the hair, so is this why some of the facial features have been covered? Yes, with the hair being the main focus I wanted most facial features covered up apart from either the eyes or chin or nose. 

What equipment did you use to make this work? Have you got any lighting tips you can share? I first started out using a large format camera but later moved to digital media format camera. As for lighting tips I’d say use the snoot and learn control light through that. 

How are you planning on getting your work seen by a wider audience? At the moment I am submitting my work to photo contest and magazines is currently the main way of getting my work out to a wider audiences but also Instagram takeovers and regular use of my Instagram will hopefully get my work to a wider audience.