Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Guffogg's Guest - Taz Rahman

Welcome to 'Guffogg's Guest',  the series in which I interview creatives about their journey into the creative world, their works, and what makes them tick. This week I'm interviewing London & Cardiff wedding & event photographer, Taz Rahman of Weddings By Taz.

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Wedding of Rhi & Andrew by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


Hi Taz. Thank you for taking a little time out of your day to answer some questions for me. How did you come to find yourself wielding a camera?

'It wasn’t love at first sight but merely a child’s curiosity. My late father was into photography in his younger days. As a child, I used to play with a slightly cracked black Bakelite Kodak camera that was his first camera as a teenager in the late 1950s. I used to open up the back, wind the white winding knob on the top incessantly and press the shutter button pretending I was taking the black and white photos I had seen in family albums. By this time, my middle-aged father was still sporting an ancient but shiny Yashica 635 TLR camera, which he bought in Beirut, Lebanon as a student in the 1960s. My father shot 35mm colour slides using a special adapter and I still recall the mysterious process that required him to take the camera under a blanket with the room curtains drawn to load the films! By the start of the 1980s, our household welcomed a Konica c35. I was still too young and unstable to demand holding it, but it fascinated me and the tack sharp photos of my father’s travels into distant lands like China, Russia, Venezuela and communist era Hungary got me hooked on the stories he would recount to go with the glossy 6x4 prints.   

My first camera was a Hanimex point and shoot bought in 1990 from Argos funded through my paper-round income. A menacing looking black Miranda SLR like the one owned by my best friend was beyond my means. His black and white photos for the school magazine were so droolingly moody. I bought my first proper digital camera, a Canon s30 with full manual controls back in 2001. It was so thrilling to see instantly what I was snapping away. But, I still wasn’t seriously interested in photography until 2006, when I found myself having four weeks of convalescence after a hernia operation. On a whim, I bid on and won an Olympus OM40 SLR and spent the subsequent weeks reading exhaustively every online article I could find on film photography. That was my first serious foray into photography. For the next decade I bought more vintage cameras and must have shot at least 20 rolls of film each year. Admittedly, a lot of the photos were of my cat or some foliage along routes I regularly cycled through, so not particularly interesting. I bought my first DSLR camera in 2009 and turned professional in late 2014.'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Lilly & Bunny by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


The Yashica 635 is actually on my very, very extensive camera wish list. If I may, what saw your father travelling to such interesting lands? Please say spy! Please say spy!

'He worked in the civil and diplomatic services, nothing so exotic like a spy. The photos he took in exotic countries (they were still exotic in the 70s and 80s) were just photos of his associates and colleagues but often with stunning backdrops like the Great Wall in China. The stories from those travels and what I was seeing in the 6x4 prints – I remember waiting avidly for the prints to come back from the printers – they were just fascinating.'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Wedding of Tasha & Christopher by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


I understand your main source of income is wedding photography. What made you go down this route?

'Yes, I am a wedding photographer and I absolutely love photographing weddings!

While at university, I was working part-time for one of the largest high street fashion retailers in Cardiff. I eventually ended up as the head of staff training and recruitment at the local branch. You can’t be so submerged in fashion and latest trends, and not get excited by it. Fashion felt glamorous and I was also finding myself obsessing over the fashion oriented photography of visionary masters like Paolo Roversi, Sarah Moon and the more contemporary Emily Soto. I started shooting a few events and even a couple of store-held catwalks. Again, on a whim, I decided to pack in the day job and become a full-time professional photographer. Although with hindsight, I now realise that I should have made a gradual transition into full-time photography. At the time, the photography I was engaged in professionally was not even close to the works of Roversi, Moon and Soto. I was making a living out of corporate and family event photography and the odd portrait session. I did not know how I could acquire the skills and explore my visions of fashion photography, and most importantly, earn a living from it.

I had photographed a couple of weddings for friends in 2013 and 2014 for free and eventually I found myself photographing weddings for money. As I acquired the skills and became confident in my ability to create a personal style of work, it was at weddings and in particular the bridal portrait sessions that I finally found the opportunity to truly act out my fashion photography obsessions. The colourful visions of femininity tingled with the magic of romance was my calling card and that is how I fell in love with weddings, and eventually became a fine art wedding photographer.'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Wedding of Bronte & Sam by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


People sometimes struggle with knowing when, and how to make that transition from shooting weddings for free to charging for their services. What advice would you give?

'That decision should be made for you. Start charging when you need to make money out of photographing weddings and that is what happened in my case. Whether that earning is one’s sole income or to drive a hobbyist’s passion does not matter. I photographed three free weddings and looking back, had I charged, the quality of those weddings, especially the first two would have embarrassed me!

Here’s the thing, wedding photography today is about capturing moments. Nobody does traditional wedding photography anymore other than a few oldtimers who have been in the business for 20 years or more, or perhaps those who have just started out and don’t know which moments to capture, and don’t know what the brides want. Every other experienced professional who started out with weddings in the DSLR era falls into the two other categories - documentary/photojournalism or fashion/contemporary weddings. Both of these styles are about the important moments, the difference between the styles is that some photographers just capture the moments as they happen and others like to engineer the moments to some extent.

So ideally, you can start charging as soon as you learn about which moments to capture. There are countless wedding blogs that should serve as a guide, some of the most popular being:

https://www.rockmywedding.co.uk
https://www.rocknrollbride.com
http://bridesupnorth.com
https://junebugweddings.com
https://www.stylemepretty.com

Look through the blogs, note the styles of photography and one is already in a better place to shoot a wedding! In practise, it is a little more complicated as no two weddings are the same and having that relaxed wedding photography experience one can get at a friend or relative’s wedding is invaluable.

Second-shooting is another way of getting that experience but if I am honest there are very few opportunities for paid second-shooting unless you are already an experienced wedding photographer. No matter how good your portrait work is and however many salon competitions you have won with your fantasy themed portraits, you can’t just turn up to a wedding with no experience of photographing weddings and expect to turn out photos that can be seen in the blogs above.You just won’t be up to speed despite all your existing technical knowledge. You might not like the highlight crushing, missed focus, green cast over some of these blog photos, but that is what the brides want. You will not get a premium wedding booking by showing off your Purpleport.com FPI photos because the brides know what they want in the age of pinterest and instagram!

This is a shameless plug, I have written a guide to wedding photography which is actually aimed at brides and grooms, but it comprehensively covers the styles of photography, what to expect and costs, and so it is a useful read for anybody thinking about embarking on wedding photography as a career – ‘How to choose your ideal wedding photographer: a concise wedding photography guide for brides and grooms!’ (https://www.amonochromedream.com/wedding-photography-styles-cardiff)

There is also a burgeoning Wedding Photography related forum within Purpleport for those readers who are members of the site: https://purpleport.com/group/wedding-photography'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Channelle by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer. Make-up & hair styling also by Channelle


Admittedly, I personally have only seen this from people who have only shot one or two, but, wedding photography has a bit of a reputation for been very stressful, and a lot of hard work. Is this the case?

'Any genre of professional photography can be stressful because you are working for someone and have a deadline to meet. Wedding photography is no different. However, the fact that you potentially have more variables to go wrong during the day because you are not in charge of every aspect of planning the day as you can be at a studio shoot, or even for that matter other event shoots. This is where, skill, experience and an easygoing nature truly helps. Initially or at least until I had found the confidence to create my own style of work, there was that stress of the unknown. However, now that the brides and grooms booking me come to me for my personal style of photography rather than just booking any old photographer to document their special day, I find myself more at ease. I can take the time to capture just the right moments and create a set of photos in a style that is truly associated with me rather than having to work through a shot-list.'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Wedding of Natalie & Adam by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


As well as weddings you shoot events. With weddings and events, unlike most other photographic genres, you can't really re-shoot some time later. It's very much a one chance thing. Is it intentional that you shoot such pressure laden subjects? Do you find you work better with such pressure? Or is it purely coincidental and you just happen to enjoy the subject matter?

'That is a great question! I actually rather enjoy the bustle of the wedding, I absolutely love the moments I get to spend with the couple, I love the bridal prep and the evening’s shenanigans. But here is my guilty secret, I actually love photographing any event that has a dancefloor and people strutting their stuff! Yes, you can’t recreate any of these moments, but with confidence in your own technical ability comes the knowledge that what you are capturing is going to be seen as 'magic moments' by each client. I guess, the confidence comes from knowing about those perfect moments and working hard to give oneself as a photographer as much chance of capturing these moments by being in the right place, and with the most appropriate camera settings! Lastly, as I increasingly get booked for my style of work, whether it is weddings, corporate parties or even the odd 21st birthdays at prestige venues, I sort of glibly know that I won’t miss the shot, whatever that shot might be!'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Danni & Ryan couples shoot by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


I know you said earlier about not working through a shot list, but, do you generally have ideas in your head, for example where you're going to shoot from, or are you very much reactive to the events of the wedding as they unfold?

'I know my style of work so I aim to visit a venue that I have not photographed before or at least do some research. I also make a note of everything the bride and groom has discussed with me with regards to their theme and plan for the day. That plan is my guide and I add shape to this guide by relying on my personal style of documenting the event, and lastly by reacting to the conditions on the day. My personal style is actually a mixture of reportage and adding a fine art twist to it. I love using sub-frames in my work and effective use of this allow for a very distinctive style as well as creating a personal presence for the photographer (see image: https://tinyurl.com/y9u55pyc)'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Wedding of Tasha & Christopher by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


I believe you've had your work featured in various publications, and had it exhibited. When people take up photography, the hope sometimes is getting features and exhibitions. The trouble is, they often don't know how this happens. How did these things come about for you?

'Publication was never really my goal but there can be huge personal satisfaction from seeing one’s work in print. My publications are all photojournalism or event related. In my case, to get to know the local community as well as improve my storytelling photojournalistic skills, as soon as I turned professional in 2014, I started covering local political and community events. Between 2015 and 2016 I must have covered at least 50 local political protests, although this came down to merely a dozen in 2017 because I was so busy elsewhere. These photos were filed with Alamy News stock photo site (http://www.alamy.com/search/imageresults.aspx?pseudoid=%7b169325CC-55EA-43F7-BBD1-EA69FEB2056D%7d&name=Taz+Rahman&st=11&mode=0&comp=1www.alamy.com) as well as local media outlets. So I soon found a photo of mine gracing the front page of the Daily Mail! Since then, I’ve also had quite a few photos being published in other national, international and local publications. Sometimes, being the only photographer at a small but significant local rally does boost the chance of being published as a photojournalist.

In terms of exhibitions, both of mine had been group exhibitions with works by other artists curated as part of the same theme. There is some vanity in this statement, I’d love to be in a position in ten years time to have a one man bridal portrait exhibition, although, I fear that I might be the only person attending!'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Annabella by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


We can't really talk about the publishing of your work without me asking, what would be your dream publication to see your work in, or on the cover of?

'For photojournalism related publication, while this is not an ambition but I would love to see a few more front pages of national newspapers. This is unlikely to happen as I am photographing fewer political rallies these days!

I really have no ‘major magazine’ publication related ambition for my portrait or wedding work. The style shoots and creative portraits I work on in between weddings and events just feed my passion for creativity and allow me to test out techniques that I could later implement at a wedding. But saying that, I do love the concept of photo essays and the photographic telling of stories. Three such publications that I absolutely love are Steven Shore’s iconic colour masterpiece ‘Uncommon Places’ (https://aperture.org/shop/shore-uncommon-places-revised-book/), Tim Walker’s accompanying book to his stunning 2012 Somerset House exhibition ‘Story Teller’ (https://www.timwalkerphotography.com/books/story-teller) and a slightly less iconic publication but one that had a lot of influence in my early work, Jason Bell’s ‘An Englishman in New York’ (http://www.jasonbellphoto.com/published-books/englishman-new-york/). They are all so very different and stand out for different reasons, but the common strand is that the photographer saw something utterly unique in the subject matter, documented that vision into photos and finally curated a collection. I don’t see it happening, but one day I’d perhaps like to work on such a project of my own choosing.'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Wedding of Rhi & Andrew by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


If people would like to see more of your work, or book your services, where should they head?

'My website for weddings, events and lifestyle portraits is www.amonochromedream.com and I also tend to share some of personal favourite photos within instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amonochromedream'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
India Rose by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


Finally, what's your favourite joke?

'I am terrible with jokes, I just don’t have the comic timing, so I’d probably ruin the best line by making it the least funniest!'

wedding photo by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer
Wedding of Bronte & Sam by Taz Rahman, Cardiff wedding photographer


I'd like to thank Taz again for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. Be sure to check out all the links above for more of Taz's work, as well as the links attached to the images for the other creatives involved in creating them.

Ian
https://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
https://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

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