Capturing the raw beauty in everyday people and places

Figure 3: Hassan II Mosque across the water from Paloma Beach in Mohammedia, Morocco.

New to Concordia’s photography program, artist ASVJAD is inspired by a recent trip to Morocco

Working mainly off of his Instagram account, ASVJAD strives to capture raw beauty in everything and everyone around him. Born in the Bay Area of California and, as he put it, “molded” in Montreal, the Concordia artist discovered his passion while conducting freelance shoots of his classmates and capturing candids for the Fine Arts Core Education High School yearbook in 2013.

ASVJAD explained that he started out using a small second-hand digital camera. The more he photographed, the better he got, learning more about his own style along the way. The artist said he aspires to produce works as eye-catching and provocative as Terry Richardson’s and as timeless as Robert Mapplethorpe’s. These inspirations can be seen in his portraits, which have an incredible dramatic edge, both in black and white and in colour.

ASVJAD photographed by his mother in Morocco.

ASVJAD is also inspired by old black-and-white foreign films and the work of Sally Mann (particularly Candy Cigarette circa 1989). He prefers to use subtle props to pack a punch, a choice that is influenced by Ren Hang’s modern and eclectic photographs.

As a freelance artist, he enjoys collaborating with other freelancers because it enables him to work without the creative restraints that may come with working for an agency.

In his work, ASVJAD focuses on empowerment, sexuality and the body. He said he looks for a unique, structural appearance, a fresh face and a distinct energy. When organising a photoshoot,  ASVJAD will often take the time to get to know his models and go over styling (clothing, hair and makeup) options long before the day of the shoot.

Utilizing his background as a fashion stylist, ASVJAD will even help former clients shop for upcoming events. “I always had a love for fashion—I think it comes from my mother. From a very young age, she and my aunt would make their own clothes,” he explained.

ASVJAD often asks his subjects to think back to a time when they were sad or angry, as he likes to play with emotions in his work, specifically surrounding the past. This creative process allows the artist to enhance aspects of his clients’ personality, mood and overall aesthetic.

During a recent trip to Morocco, the artist spent much of his time photographing everyday Moroccan lifestyle.

Paco photographed by ASVJAD for a new series on the LGBTQ+ community in Morocco.

His goal was to capture members of the LGBTQ+ community, an extremely oppressed group in Morocco because of the country’s strict laws against same-sex relationships. Since he was dealing with such taboo subject matter, he said reaching members of the community proved to be rather difficult.

This series of photographs remains incomplete, due to the fact that only two individuals were willing to have their pictures taken. ASVJAD was able to get in touch with Paco (the model in figure. 2) only after contacting him through social media. ASVJAD said he is planning on adding to the series throughout the upcoming year. “Every single person has something to offer, no matter their skin colour, race or sexual orientation,” the artist added.

One of his photographs (figure. 3) was taken on 35mm film. It outlines the Hassan II Mosque across the water from Paloma Beach in Mohammedia, Morocco. Having visited his home country a mere three times, ASVJAD grew up seeing the pristine landmarks, tourist attractions and stunning Moroccan imagery only through photographs. In order to record a raw, Moroccan reality, he attempted to understand the country with the same energy and attention that he gives to his models, the artist explained. ASVJAD photographed the flea markets and the outskirts of Casablanca, as seen in one image (figure. 4), which shows a man praying in the streets.

The artist said he has “always appreciated the fact that photography can freeze a moment in time that can never be completely recreated.” ASVJAD shows his love for spontaneous moments and quick glimpses into the psyche when it comes to retouching his work. He only ever makes changes to the colouring, sharpness of his photographs and editing their overall appearance when the subject requests it.

ASVJAD is now enrolled in Concordia’s undergraduate photography program. He said he is looking forward to exploring technical lighting, working in studio spaces, developing film in darkrooms and being surrounded by creative people of all disciplines. The artist said he hopes his work will grow and evolve from the constructive criticism of his peers in a new, structured environment.

Photos by ASVJAD

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