Images taken and owned by Moeez Ali. Originally published July 13, 2017.
by Editor | Mademoiselle Meme
Fashion month is nothing without its photographers. They capture runway, backstage and now the more popular of the three, street style photography. During New York Fashion Week in February, I had the pleasure of working with one of the industry’s finest, Moeez Ali, a London-based fashion photographer. Ali shoots runway shows but also has one of the most incredibly manicured Instagram accounts with his widely popular street style photography. He has shot some of fashion’s most important icons, models, and editors, and now me (oh em gee). We decided to catch up with Ali and get the scoop on what it is really like to be a notable fashion creative, along with some tips for aspiring photographers!
Follow Moeez Ali on Instagram here.
You currently live in London, where are you originally from?
I was born in Stamford, Connecticut, but moved to Saudi Arabia aged 2. I lived there until 2001, when we moved to Bahrain. I graduated then moved to the UK for university. After graduating, I moved around between Bahrain and NYC for two years, and found my way back to London in 2015. BUT, I’m ‘originally’ Pakistani, though I feel like a bit of a mix!
How did you get your start in fashion photography?
It was kind of by accident. I went with a friend (@mabdulle) to help him identify people to shoot for street style outside of the Topshop show in London. However, there were far too many people for him to cover on his own, so he gave me his spare camera, fixed the settings and just said ‘try your best’! I took about 200 pictures, and though most of them weren’t great, I really enjoyed myself, so I started to shadow Mohamed on shoots for the next six months. I think I shot everyday for six months after that! He’s really the one who taught me everything I know, and most importantly, all about editing style, which become incredibly important to my aesthetic.
How do you choose who to shoot on the streets? One that you consider a street style star or you can tell has that “it” factor worthy of capturing.
I’ll admit, when I first started out, I was constantly star struck and only shot people if they were ‘famous’. However, as I got more into it, I eventually learned that just because you’re famous, it doesn’t mean you always dress well! So now, I look at what/how someone is wearing something, before I look at who is wearing it. You’ll hear this from many other photographers, but you can tell when someone is wearing something which just isn’t them, and they’re wearing it to get attention, versus someone who is wearing something and clearly comfortable in it. So, I now shoot what I think looks nice/creative/interesting (it’s all subjective, so others might not like the outfits I like to shoot) and also if the person wearing it seems comfortable and natural.
What’s the key to getting the best street shot? These moments are fleeting and quick, how do you always nail it?
It’s hard to pinpoint it to one exact thing. It depends on what type of shot you’re after, or if your client has requested certain brands/styles/people to be shot. For me, I don’t like taking the shot that is set up when some photographers stop someone and ask them to pose – I prefer candid and not looking at me (unless it’s a portrait). As a result, once I’ve identified someone or something I’d like to shoot, I try to anticipate where they’re going and get myself into position. I’d say it’s a combination of good anticipation and a lot of luck! And trust me, I don’t always nail it – for every good picture I get, there are at least 50 bad ones – last season, I took over 78,000 pictures between NYC, London and Paris, and maybe I’ll personally like less than 1% of them.
What’s your style of photography or something signature to you? You definitely have a distinct look to all your compositions.
I never really thought that, until a few people said it to me. I guess a couple of things would be that I like to use what’s around me to make the shot (because I’m not that tall, so I can’t shoot over people haha). I tend to avoid going for ‘clean’ shots where there’s nothing else in the picture. The busier shots feel like they have more character to me. So, I guess I’d say that my ‘signature’ is not having a clean shot and purposely incorporating what’s around me, in a very direct and obvious way. Apart from that, I’ve heard from other people that my editing style is what makes my work distinct.
Camera of choice?
I currently use a Canon 5D Mark III with an 85mm F1.2 lens – this is for fashion week street style. Outside of fashion week, I also use a 50mm F1.2 lens and the 24-70mm F2.8 lens.
Who is your favorite fashion figure to shoot?
Haha, there are a few:
- Yoyo Cao – yoyokulala
- Giorgia Tordini – giorgiatordini
- Zina Charkoplia – zinafashionvibe
- Evangelie Smyrniotaki – styleheroine
- Caroline Daur – carodaur
- Nausheen Shah – nausheenshah
Favorite fashion city?
Favorite street photographer?
Hard to name just one, but:
- Tyler – Nyavgjoe
- Julien – Bleumode
- Tommy – Tommyton (for backstage)
- Adam – Le21eme
- Dan – Danrobertsstudio
- Daniel – Walkingcanucks
Which do you prefer: men’s or women’s fashion weeks?
Women’s, no doubt.
What tips do you have for those interested in street photography?
PRACTICE. The street has endless opportunities to shoot – you can literally go anywhere and just take pictures of anything. Fashion week street style is ‘open’ – anyone can go shoot, so if you’re thinking of trying it, then just do it (just be sure not to get in people’s way). Most importantly, if you’re hesitating over a shot, always just take it, even if you’re unsure – always better to have it and not like it, rather than not have it and wish you took it.
Street photography or runway photography?
This is tough – can’t forget backstage as well! They all have different perks.
Runway can be boring, especially if you don’t like the clothes or you have a bad position to shoot from, but I always manage to find myself in good positions, so it’s fun to capture details so closeup.
Backstage is a whole different world because it’s all these big models, but you’re getting to see them in a completely natural environment just being themselves. You can get really interesting angles and therefore amazing exposure to the clothes, which you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
Lastly, street…it’s manic, it’s crazy and it’s constant insanity. People push and shove and will do anything to get the shot they need (it’s a ruthless side of the industry), but all that being said, the adrenaline rush is like nothing else. I love being put under pressure to get the shot, because it forces you to be creative in a split second, and when it comes off, it feels even better.
Survival tips for the long days and stress of fashion month?
Hydrate, try to eat properly and take regular breaks from editing after the shows are over.