My UAE: Yacob Ahli explores his passion to snap

A look at a Dubai-based photographer who is living his dream.

Yacob Ahli works in a bank, but channels his inner photographer even at his office. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Yacob Ahli works in a bank, but channels his inner photographer even at his office. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

It’s true that to be able to turn a hobby or interest into a paying career is, for many, some sort of ultimate. For Dubai-based Yacob Ahli, that dream is fast approaching a reality.

The 32-year old works by day as a banker for Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank but, in his spare time, he creates extraordinary photographs.

“I love to travel,” says Ahli. “And I probably go away four times a year, for three or four days at a time, always with taking photographs as the reason for visiting a place. I always try to go somewhere new.”

He’s certainly a big hit with his 36,000 Instagram followers. “I started photographing with my smartphone,” he says, “always trying to bring a new perspective to scenes that have been shot before. But soon I became interested in proper photography and I started teaching myself. I read books, researched online, attended training courses and joined the UAE Photography Club to learn new techniques and swap ideas with other enthusiasts.”

So far this year he has visited the Masai Mara in Kenya, Armenia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkey and London. He is married and has two children – an eight-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son. “They both go everywhere with their cameras and have set up their own social network accounts to showcase their own work.”

He says Instagram is the fastest and easiest way to spread the word about your talents. “It’s fantastic for making contacts and leads to all manner of opportunities. For instance, I was contacted through it and asked if I would help raise money for a charity that looks after people who are visually impaired. And for my kids it spurs them on to be even better. It’s a great motivator.”

But what about changing that day job? “I’m working on a project to train Arab photographers in their own language, as I’m convinced it would be a more valuable learning experience. And who knows, this could end up being a new career. I am very busy working for the bank and have to be careful in the way I use my time, always making sure I spend as much as possible with my family.”

Perhaps all he needs is the right agent because anyone who sees his beautiful and evocative images, even on the tiny screen of an iPhone, seems convinced of his talents.

Published: September 19, 2013 04:00 AM