A storyteller’s tale

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A photograph holds, possibly, as much power as words do. A photograph can serve as the strongest piece of evidence to rest a case; it can help you relive precious moments that would otherwise be forgotten. A photograph can tell a story more intricately woven than the ones we read. But what a photograph doesn’t always express is the story behind the lens — of the person capturing these very moments. One such storyteller, Tanvir Ali, sat down with Avenue T this month to share his tale.

Tanvir, founder of Wedding Moments and Tanvir Ali Photography, is a pioneer in wedding photography in the country. With 10 years of experience in the field under his belt, he has aided massively in creating memories of special events. It all started when Tanvir covered his cousin’s wedding in 2009, which led to her friends asking him to cover theirs as well. This led him to think about photography as a career. Before this series of events, Tanvir already owned a camera back then, as he used to pursue photography as a hobby — mostly focusing on lifestyle photography and portraits.

Tanvir built his business from ground zero, with no professional training in the field. He has, however, been teaching photography to those interested. He always loved teaching, and having learned about photography from YouTube videos, he understood that there were vast differences in what would be shown and what the circumstances are in reality. He decided to pass on the knowledge to young individuals, through workshops arranged by an association of wedding photographers that he was a part of. The response this had resulted in him becoming more involved in giving professional training to interested individuals.

When Wedding Moments came to be, it was right before the wedding season — the month of December. That very first month, Tanvir already had 20 bookings — and then, there was no looking back. At the onset of this business that was well on its way to success, Tanvir ran a one-man army. About two years after Wedding Moments kicked off, he decided that he needed to expand, and hired more photographers in his team. Currently, a decade later, there are 25 photographers and cinematographers working in the team.

The hiring process for Wedding Moments has also been thorough. Tanvir always tries to hire photographers with experience in the field. But another criteria he keeps in mind is the need to maintain diversity in styles. All the photographers in the team bring something different to the table; they aim to tailor to the needs of the clients’ individual needs. Which photographer is sent on which assignment is also a process, that depends highly on the kind of event and what it requires, and the individual strengths of each photographer.

For every client, Tanvir makes sure to sit down with the bride and groom to discuss what they’re looking for. He likes to know about the venue, decor, wardrobe and make-up look of the bride, so he can envision what would go well with all of those elements. With their inspiration photos and Tanvir’s personal aesthetic, there is a combined effort that goes into the planning of what kind of photos need to be taken. This meeting, Tanvir says, ensures that he knows the clients’ expectations, and also can clarify how much of these expectations he can fulfill, so as to not disappoint them in the end.

When asked about his personal style, Tanvir said: “I’m obsessed with symmetry.” And this is evident in the photos he takes, where the perfect alignment of all the components create a kind of visual satisfaction. He also loves silhouettes, as he has a deep understanding of lights and shadows, and how to play around with them. His expertise with lighting came from years of experiments, the subjects of which were, often, his stuffed toys.

Having been in the industry for what seems like forever, Tanvir had to make do with everyday objects to make up for the lack of equipment available. He remembers seeing, on YouTube, a photography “umbrella” being an important tool to diffuse light. To create the same effect, he bought an actual umbrella, tying up the wires of halogen lights to it, and made it work. Today, it is a common practice for photographers in the city.

With the rise of wedding photographers in the city, Tanvir says it has become somewhat of a challenge to constantly come up with something different. For this, Tanvir came up with a schedule for the events, where there is an orchestrated photoshoot of the bride and groom before the event, and then they let the event roll. This enables the team to not only have poised photos that the bride and groom would want, but also of the emotional and exciting event that a wedding should be. What Tanvir loves the most is seeing the bride and groom enjoying their wedding, and getting to capture those moments for years to come.

Currently, Wedding Moments takes up to 55 wedding bookings a month, covering about 3 weddings at the same time on some days. They try to maintain a strict limit when accepting bookings, since an overly burned out team can do very little to appease the clients. They offer 10 different packages, for prices ranging from Tk20,000 to Tk300,000.

There are quite a few things that can make a wedding shoot less than ideal, according to Tanvir. The most common scenario during weddings is the bride and groom arriving late, not giving the photographers enough time to take the kind of photos they’d be happy with. Apart from that, make-up and wardrobe malfunctions also hinder the process, as it’s quite difficult to fix these at the venue.

Wedding Moments, as the name itself clearly suggests, focuses on everything wedding-y. But Tanvir had the urge to branch out and explore other types of photography. Through this, Tanvir Ali Photography was born. This allowed him to tap into fashion and street photography, and create a personal brand for himself. So far, Tanvir Ali Photography has worked with big NGOs like SAJIDA Foundation and PurifAid, designers like Anzara and Sarah Karim, and make-up artists like Glow by Larissa Fazle, Splendor by Aneeka Bushra, and Beauty Parade by Sohana. With Tanvir Ali Photography, Tanvir wants to focus more on candids — he wants to help tell a story. They also sponsor events dedicated towards women empowerment, as it is something they strongly believe in.

Another service that Tanvir ventured into, along with his friend M Aminur Rahman from Checkmate Events, is a school called Creative Nation. Currently only providing courses on photography and cinematography at Vertical Horizon, they aim to expand Creative Nation into an institute of creative studies. Tanvir’s passion for teaching, paired with the unavailability of enough creative professionals around him, pushed him to begin this school to help enhance people’s creativity.

For Tanvir, be it with Wedding Moments or Tanvir Ali Photography, every project is supervised and approved by him. There have been times Tanvir has had to turn away potential clients, owing to the fact that he and his team may not be specialized in the particular theme the clients want, and that another photographer may have a better grasp of it. This comes from the knowledge he has of his own strengths and shortcomings, and from a will to not have to compromise with the creative process.

Over the decade that he has been in the business, Tanvir has done very little to promote his brand; most of the clients he gets has been through word of mouth, and recommendations from his previous clients. His online reach, too, has been organic. However, his work has spoken for itself, creating a dedicated client-base. Tanvir maintains a very close, friendly relationship with all of his clients. Tanvir believes in delivering an overall experience, making the bride and groom as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

Tanvir Ali does what he does out of love for his work, but also because he recognizes his work as an integral part of people’s lives. “Memories eventually fade,” he says, “but a photograph can commemorate an important moment for eternity.” There are many more stories to tell, and Tanvir can’t wait to tell them all.

To see the magic Tanvir Ali creates, visit http://tanvirali.photography/