Ever wonder how to truly bring your photographs to life? Ashraful Arefin, a Fine Art Photographer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, does exactly that. Creating a combination of still images that capture movement and cinemagraphs (moving pictures), Ashraful has landed himself on Nikon’s 100 List as well as being named a MyNIKKOR Photographer. Ashraful has been very much inspired by the simple little things and tries to portray his appreciations for the beauty of simple things through his works. In short, He works to capture beauty and emotion within his photographic frame by using colors and simple techniques.
How did you get into this style of photography?
“My photography journey started back in 2013 when I started doing a 365 project. At that time I was studying Fine Arts and during my studies, I learned about 17th century Dutch still life paintings and how the artists used symbolism as a form of painting. Still life really intrigued and inspired me and I learned how the symbols and storytelling work. So, when I started doing photography I knew my field of interest would be still life. I wanted to create in the same approach and use symbolism as the 17th-century Dutch painters but in a more contemporary and minimalistic way.”
How would someone go about getting skilled in that area? Any advice for such a person?
“I think just like any other genre of photography, first you need to have passion and love for what you are doing. As for still life, it’s mostly about storytelling through inanimate objects. There are stories in every little thing. Every object has a connection with human emotion; for example, an old photograph can take you back to so many memories and make you feel nostalgic, or something like a paper boat can remind us about rain and childhood. So having a clear concept and intention will really help you hone your skills. Of course, there are other technical things to practice like lighting, composition, etc. But once you’re sure about what kind of stories you want to tell through your images you will get the idea of what kind of lighting and composition is most suitable for your work. My advice is to concentrate on what you really want to portray through your images and think about the subjects that can help you to achieve that. Also studying symbolism can be a great help to really form your ideas.”
Which camera gear (bodies, lenses, tripod, lighting, etc.) do you prefer to use in your work?
“Currently, I am using a Nikon D850 with NIKKOR 105mm F/1.4E ED, NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8 G, and NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8 G lenses. My personal favorite is the NIKKOR 105mm F/1.4E ED and it rarely leaves my camera body. The sharpness and depth it creates is amazing! In addition, I use a Manfrotto Befree One travel tripod. As for the lighting, I mostly depend on natural light. My personal favorite time to shoot is late afternoon when the sunlight is soft and golden. For the past few months, I have been mixing up and experimenting using led constant lights with natural light. Right now my personal favorite is Yongnuo YN216, it’s very affordable and lightweight and I can easily carry it around everywhere.”
What are you working on currently? Any big plans for a future project?
“Right now I am in the process of making a series of still life cinemagraphs inspired by Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland. And I am planning for a big project next year and currently collecting props for it. I want to create a series of cinemagraphs inspired and styled based on 17th century Dutch Vanitas paintings. I am really excited about this project and think the result will be pretty interesting!”
What is the one thing that can make or break a shot?
“I think it’s the storytelling quality of an image. A photo might look beautiful with nice lighting, composition, and location, etc but if it doesn’t have a feel or make a connection with the creator and viewer, then it just loses its appeal.”
All images used with the artist’s permission.