BSP member Emilie Houwat has recently won the National Geographic Abu Dhabi competition, ‘Ana Musawir National Geographic’ (‘I Am NatGeo Photographer’). Proud of her achievement, BSP asked Emilie some questions on behalf of the community.
Congratulations on winning the National Geographic Abu Dhabi competition, ‘Ana Musawir National Geographic’ (‘I Am NatGeo Photographer’)! How does it feel to be the winner?
Thank you! Actually, it still didn’t sink in completely. It was a great moment.
How did you participate in the contest? What was your motivation?
I was one of the 100 applicants that were shortlisted and then interviewed by the director. It was an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and go through a new experience.
Coming from a street photography background, what were the challenges you faced? How did you overcome them?
As a street photographer, one gets trained to look around for opportunities. So even if for some reason I wasn’t comfortable during certain challenges, I simply tried to shoot as I normally would.
The challenges were mainly in the genres of photography that we were put through where most of them were far from street, like cityscape and action photography, knowing that it was the first time that I shot said genres. How I overcame them? It came naturally, I don’t really know how to explain.
How did the critiques of the judges help you improve your skills?
Their critiques helped me look at things from a different perspective, even though sometimes opinions differed. It’s purely subjective.
How did it feel to shoot using equipment you were not used to? Is it true that “the tools matter”?
Nikon helped me familiarize with the equipment and offered to help with any technical questions. I also had the chance to test the equipment with the help of a colleague before the competition. However, even though the basics are the same, it’s still difficult when it isn’t yours.
In my opinion, it’s all about the eye. “The tools” only limit you up to a certain extent.
How did it feel to be filmed the whole time?
I felt relaxed in front of the camera right after the first episode. Everyone involved was very professional. The environment was kept light and comfortable.
What really also helped was that the production team that worked with me on a closer level, providing a comfortable working environment at all times and that allowed me to be myself.
How did you find this experience?
It taught me a lot about myself. I consider myself to be a shy person. However, I easily mingled with everyone and stepped out of my comfort zone. The way I dealt with stress most of the times was really unexpected because I was dealing with the situation as if it wasn’t a competition.
I am now preparing for the exhibition which is part of the prize arranged by National Geographic Abu Dhabi and it is going to take place in Dubai in the coming few weeks.
Few years ago, when I joined the BSP community, I never thought that I would shoot something other than street, knowing that it was the case up till now. After all, the purpose is to enjoy the process of shooting which may also lead to trying different genres of photography. Maybe one would end up enjoying them too.
See more of Emilie’s work: