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Hasselblad Master Ali Rajabi: streetwise in NYC

Looking close to home for his inspiration, Ali Rajabi decided to focus his Masters project on his hometown of New York and take a closer look at the lives of his fellow inhabitants.Masters Urban 21Building his idea around an old Iranian proverb that his father had told him, ‘God dividing his blessing in the morning’, he set out to document the people around him who were looking to live, move, work and help each other to create a better world and to move forward.

“Sometimes when shooting fine art photography in the streets you need to stay in the dark and be invisible to people,” he says, “and you find yourself walking as much as you can to find the best spots to work. My concept for the project was focused on the morning and that gave me only two to three hours of time to be where I needed to be, because after that the sunlight was getting too harsh.” Ali-Rajabi1“So I went to different locations and made notes about the angle of the light at certain times and drew some sketches to plan out the shots I wanted to make. Although it wasn’t infallible it gave me a sense of what would happen in the frame. It was kind of surprising and exciting to see in advance how the photos might turn out.”

Ali confesses that the quality of the images the Hasselblad enabled ‘blew his mind.’Masters Urban 08“That wasn’t the point that pushed me further however,” he says. “Rather it was the fact that I was working in single shot mode throughout. When you’re taking photos in the streets you need to be decisive and to capture the right moment because this is not staged photography, you can’t choose your cast and there’s no time to repeat the moment. Usually, continuous mode helps me to find the best picture amongst a sequence, but this time I didn’t have the option and it put a little pressure on me. But after a while I appreciated what it was making me do, forcing me to look at scenes very carefully and to pay extra attention to the details.”Masters Urban 01“I started to calculate people’s steps so that I could capture their best position as they were walking – and even when they were sitting I was patient and waited until I could get the best result. Although at the beginning shooting single shots seemed to put me at a disadvantage as time passed it became a great advantage that helped me to capture the shots I love the most.”

The Hasselblad Masters book ‘Inspire’ is available at

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