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Hasselblad Masters Awards 2016: Street/Urban Category Winner Ali Rajabi

2016-01-26  ‘I just see the streets as a giant studio’

The streets have always been a fruitful hunting ground for Ali Rajabi and his camera.

He says: “I strongly believe that men and women are the most powerful subject you can photograph in the whole world. I just see the streets as a giant studio where you can capture your subject in every form and concept.”

Winning entry in the Street/Urban category photographed by Hasselblad Master Ali Rajabi

Born and raised in Iran and now living in New York, Ali started his career in 2001 at the age of just 21, when he started teaching at the Teheran Institute of Technology. “The main area I covered was graphic design,” he notes, “but I also organised numerous seminars and courses for Iranian photographers, and by 2005 I thought these students needed to be given more information about the ways in which Photoshop could help them with their retouching and colour management. This led me to work on my own photographic skills, and a year later I realised I couldn’t live without my camera.”

Ali’s aim was to set up a teaching facility that could offer equal opportunities to all learners, and after twice failing to get it off the ground he finally managed to establish the online Atrin Centre for Photographers and Graphic Designers in 2010, which is now the biggest site of its kind in Iran.

One of Ali’s goals in life was to create a body of street work that was based around the theme of snow, and he got his opportunity in an unexpected fashion. “I’d been suffering with a severe intestinal problem,” he says, “and was due to return to Iran to receive treatment. I took the shot that won me the Hasselblad Masters category a day before my flight back, and although I was very sick at the time I didn’t want to miss the chance of photographing the beautiful snow that had just fallen. I took two or three strong painkillers and headed out into temperatures of minus 17.

“Eventually I arrived at 6th Avenue and suddenly saw this scene in front of me. I waited for the red lights and then jumped in the middle of street and took the shot. Believe me I can still remember the horn of the taxi behind me blaring out!”

Ali received the news of his win via an email he received at 3am on his mobile phone. “I was silent for around 30 or 40 seconds,” he says, “and then I thanked God and let out a big scream. Every time I think about this award I visualise the big names who have won a Hasselblad Masters Award in the past and it gives me tons of energy to work harder than ever.”

Facebook: Ali Rajabi

Instagram: @nightblueman

See all the winning entries in Hasselblad Masters 2016 here

The ten winners will be tasked to create a new and unique set of images, using a Hasselblad Medium Format camera, embracing the theme ‘Inspire’ (coinciding with Hasselblad’s 75th anniversary) for the latest edition of the Hasselblad Masters Book. The Winners will receive their trophy and their own Hasselblad camera to keep at a special photokina 2016 ceremony in Cologne this September.

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