I learned about Nadeem Karim and his work via flickr and at some point we discussed travel blogs and photography. What immediately caught my eyes when I looked at his photos was this very strong immediateness. Very real, very close. As if seen with your own eyes in a fleeting moment. The term vintage is often overused and attached to way too many things. Nadeem however brings back a real vintage impression, not just by the choice of media (film in many cases) but also by his choice of composition. After having gone through his film portfolio once again, I asked him for an interview.
Please tell us about yourself.
I was born in South London, from Mauritian parents, but was raised in a suburban area of Paris. Fifteen years later, I went to reside back in the UK.
I grew up under the umbrella of 3 cultures (Mauritian, English and French). These three cultures intensively changed my perception of life. It was quite hard at times to find a good balance between all different customs. Predominantly coming from a Muslim family, it was not until 2006 that I accepted Islam. My faith has a lot to do with how I see the world today and I like to identify my perception of the world through my motto “Staring at the world through my Imaan” (Imaan meaning ‘faith’ in Arabic).
I have always been intrigued by nature and life in general. Having an inquisitive mind unquestionably pushed me to document my feelings through different mediums such as writing, music (no longer doing it) and lately photography etc…
Photography unexpectedly came to me last year  and I have ever since developed a real passion for it. It all started on my quest to try and find wallpapers for my computer. I used to wonder how they came up with such high quality compositions. Then my colleague Josef showed me his DSLR [Nikon D3000] which I had never even thought once about, as the prices were way out of my league.
After a few months of work, I purchased my first Digital SLR. From that day, I understood that photography would be my element and my story began here.
What pushes you to shoot? What do you shoot (for)?
I have a soft spot for natural lights, so whenever I see the sun shining through a fence or a combo of natural light (sun) and dust, this will be enough for me to run and get my camera.
I shoot mainly because I love to capture moments and stories through my lenses. I recently started documenting my travelling thanks to Josef and Terence for inspiring me to do a travelling blog (link below). It is also an opportunity for me to keep memories of places I have been to.
This opened new doors for me to explore new horizons and document new cultures, and connect with people from all around the world. So far I have been blessed to go to back to Mauritius, visit South Africa, and in the few months Japan.
What is your style?
I have been complimented a lot regarding the diversity of my photography, especially on the social website Flickr. People often let me know that they love to follow what I do as they never know what I am going to come up with next. Well to be honest I don’t even know myself haha.
On a serious note I don’t consider myself to have a specific signature style, but I love film and I like my pictures to have that “vintage” feel to them. They look so evocative and take me back to happy days of my childhood and growing up.
This attachment is very dear to me, and this might be my drive. It is also in some ways a cheaper way to do film, as at the moment my bank account isn’t too happy with my film adventures haha.
I find my shots to be simple but yet effective to me. I like my calm and delicate colors. After many months of struggling with my presets for digital, I finally made a beautiful Action in Photoshop that transforms my digital into lovely film type shots.
I have been told that in a nutshell my photography consists of: “Ordinary subjects that tell an extraordinary story.” I was so touched and I often find it hard to believe sometimes.
I am also driven by London; I have a very strong attachment to this city – maybe because this city had the first streets I ever saw, the first buildings, the first colours etc….
On the technical side of it I shoot in RAW format for my serious shots and JPEG for my snapshots but only temporarily (I know it’s bad and I can get more out of RAW) but it’s only because of storage issues (RAW is too heavy unfortunately my hard drive has to pay the price and it is an important issue that cannot be ignored).
I shoot exclusively in Manual mode because I love to compose my shots as it’s challenging and it feels good. There is nothing wrong with other modes it’s just my personal preference. I used to snap a lot and the more I shot the more I realized that over 100 photographs only 10 remained so I am now trying to concentrate on quality over quantity. This process pushes me to think more about composition and how to get the most out of any situations.
When you shoot, do you go out with a plan, or do you let it happen?
This is a very interesting question! I honestly don’t recall going for a planned photography session. I let it happen; I must say though that when I drive, I sometimes see places that I would like to shoot so I make a memory note of it and it usually takes a few months for me to remember haha. For example in spring time I would drive past this stunning industrial factory and it’s only in autumn that I would go and get a few shots! It is not planned at all. I like to take the opportunity and feel that I’m ready to capture the moment.
Nevertheless I’m a great believer that when you let it happen, this is where the magic happens and “natural” meets you and not the opposite.
I am also my worst enemy!
At the moment I am equipped with a Canon EOS 600D and a few prime lenses [50mm f/1.4 and 60mm f.28 macro]. It is not the best camera but I wanted to start small and gradually go up maybe towards full frame.
I recently purchased a Canon AE-1 [FD 50mm f/1.4 and FD 24mm f2.8] for film which has completely changed my photography and made me pay more attention to details especially for framing. The camera being full frame is such a bonus. I’m so in love with it. So the only planning I do is maybe the choice of cameras /lenses for a project.
Are there any photographers/artists/role models that influence your work or inspire you?
Islam is where I get all my inspiration from. It inspires me so much; a drop of dew on a flower will move me, and make me reflect of the Creator’s work. I would then be driven to take pictures of it so others can reflect on themselves.
Apart from my faith, I love how Japanese people see the world too; their photography is just on another level.
Then the list is very long, people on Flickr like:
You [Terence S. Jones], Dan Love, Blake Burton, La Brancaro, Margot Gabel [MRGT], Phuong [theglowingstars], Matt (1Q91), Stanley, Mark Harman [Marquisde], Skidu, Kiyoshi Ookawa [Kiyo] and Sonia [Kapouiiiit] who literally changed my photography for the best. I owe it all to her…
I like newly emerging photographers and the ‘underrated’ photographers because the rawness of their photography touches me a lot.
I’d like to add that anyone that is able to take me to another place is an amazing inspiration. I like to get inspired by everything and everyone, from my family to friends to strangers. I am sorry this answer is quite vague but it is the most accurate I can get to.
Do you have a specific goal for the development of your photography?
I’d really like to keep it as hobby and I never want to stop learning; I have recently learnt how to develop my own black and white films. It is one of the most exciting moments I have ever experienced. Being a self-taught photographer there is only so much you can learn so I had to take classes for film developing.
I’d like to concentrate on film for a bit, especially on my 35mm and 120mm. I will eventually start developing my own C-41 colour films one day. It is my long term goal.
I have been blessed to acquire a lovely Canon AE-1 [35mm] and a stunning Yashica-A [120mm]. The whole film adventure is costing me a lot but the feeling of happiness and self-accomplishment is way more rewarding than money.
I also need to concentrate on my digital. I am working on a few other projects but I don’t really want to give too much that I’d end up killing the excitement.
I would like to work a bit more on London and show the nitty gritty aspects of the city.
Maybe an official website would be great but I am not really ready for it yet (in terms of time dedication and resources). I don’t know these are just ideas…
What projects are you currently working on? How do you allocate time between “private” and “commercial” projects?
I am working on a few projects at the moment! [Suspense]
My main priority is my Japan trip and my travelling blog “Diary of a Nomad”.
I am always on the move; destiny has chosen it that way, but I sometimes find it hard to find my identity, especially when I’m constantly moving.
I am also working on my film portfolio, which is more or less an on-going thing more than anything else
Is there a project you are especially proud of?
These two projects were my main goals which I successfully completed. It feels good to control your projects entirely. I was also very happy with my water drops series.
Is there any specific advice that you have for us?
Keep on shooting. I have come across people that want amazing photography but don’t even spend a minute trying to learn. Keep on shooting, make mistakes, reflect on the beauty of life, analyze – this might sound contradictory but don’t think too much as well.
Try shooting in a different angle; try to experiment by composing a picture, move objects around!
The world is your studio.
Don’t be afraid to show your skills. I used to hide between tons of editing because I was afraid of the imperfections of my photography, so I kept on shooting until I decided to shoot and show the unedited versions which has incredibly boosted up my confidence. I try to keep things as SOOC [straight out of camera] as much as possible. After a year of photography under my belt, I can say that hard work has paid off!
Now let us have a look at some of your favorite shoots.
From my film theme
“London” When taking this shot with my Canon AE-1 I knew exactly how they were going to turn out. The nitty gritty of the bricks of London are famous for their colour and I absolutely love the way it came out.
“Brick City” This doesn’t belong to the film category but because of the editing I wanted to include it in here, I really love the way the bricks come out so vividly yet washed out.
“Corner Shop“ Taken with the Canon AE-1 and Canon FD 50mm f1.4 in a corner shop in London. I fell in love with the gritty tones which portrays the life of a Londoner.
“Nocturnal Bokeh” First long exposure on the Canon AE-1 which I was so pleased with, taken in my auntie’s house. I moved everything on the table and used my tripod for steady base.
“Breakthrough #7“ Dust and light is my perfect combination.
“Breakthrough #8” Another shot that makes us reflect on the beauty of life and how insignificant we are in this universe.
“Brixton Station” Grainy as I love it, this shot changed my whole perception of photography and how to capture light.
“Papillon Metallique” This shot was so hard to take as the light meter went completely off on that one but I took the risk and it turned out fantastic.
“Summer Breeze” One of the most beautiful pictures I have ever taken it turned out so beautiful especially the golden tones.
“Renaissance” Taken with Canon FD 50mm f1.8 at f8 on Canon AE-1, this shot was the best I have ever taken whilst using small apertures.
The next three are from “Architecture and lines”.
“The Alley” My friend took me for a tour in Cardiff at the docks which is a real depiction of where people live. I shot this in an alley where not a lot of people go. I use my 50mm once again on the highest aperture f1.4 which gave me the DOF I wanted. Applied my action to it in Photoshop and was really pleased with the results.
“Stairway” I really wanted to work on my lines and framing. I fell in love with the 6×6 medium film format so I wanted to portray that kind of format.
“Parking” After buying my ticket airfare for Japan I went to town to buy a few things and I saw these lines and tones in the car park which made me feel like I was in Tokyo. I really love the tones in this photograph, the light is stunning and I am surprised by the sharpness of the f1.4 at f5.6.
Thank you very much for your time!
Do not forget to checkout Nadeem Karim’s work:
Cargo Collective: http://cargocollective.com/knahadeem
Travelling Diary: http://knahadeem.wordpress.com/