Based in Dubai, Toufic Araman is an award winning Egyptian photographer whose awe-inspiring images are fast gaining international recognition. Enigma’s Daliah Galal speaks to a young man who sees life through a lens…
graduate of the American University in Cairo, majoring in economics with a minor in fine Arts, Araman first started his professional life as a Training Coordinator at the Ritz Carlton Sharm El Sheikh. It was a practical move that took him further away from his dream to work as an art director. Yet it only took Araman two years to make his way to the top of the chain. At the tender age of 25, he was promoted to Director of Training. The youngest ever person to land in the director’s chair. Countless promotions later, including a lucrative transfer to Dubai, it seemed Araman was destined for big things in the world of hospitality. Yet his heart just wasn’t in it. He longed to put his creative talents to good use, but was unable to find the appropriate outlet. Finally, in 2003, a friend gave him a camera for Christmas. The rest, as they say, is photographic history.
Today Araman is an award winning photographer and one of the region’s brightest stars. He has studied at the International Centre of Photography and School of Visual Arts in New York and is a member of the Middle East Professional photographers in Dubai. Araman is also a two time winner of the Gulf Photo Plus (Grand Award in 2006 and Best Ad Picture in 2008). His skills are so sought after, he now teaches photography at the American University in Dubai. His dazzling portfolio boasts a host of high profile clients including Burj Al-Arab, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Le Meridien, American Express, HSBC, Qatar Airways, Emaar, Saks Fifth Avenue, Shell, Siemens, General Motors and Vera Wang… to name but a few! Jet-setting between Dubai and New York on assignments, he aims to set the benchmark for creative photography in the Middle East.
But it didn’t happen overnight. Soon after Araman received his first camera, he enrolled into night classes in Dubai and then photography quickly became his obsession. He would finish work and wander round the city for hours on end taking pictures. Before he knew it he had an entire portfolio of cityscape images. Araman then tried his luck by sending his photos out to potential clients. “To my surprise people actually started buying the photos!” he says. With his confidence buoyed, he invested in professional equipment and made a two year plan to save money, leave his successful corporate career and go study photography in the Big Apple. “New York shifted my whole being,” says Araman. His tough class assignments required him to meet random strangers in the street and convince them to allow him to photograph them in their home. He was also required to go to classmates’ homes, take nude pictures and show them in class. Despite the challenges he faced, he says that “studying for twelve hours a day, having classmates from all over the world and being exposed to various cultures, vibes and energies was definitely worth it. It really gave me the push I needed.”
After he was done studying, Araman decided to return to Dubai. By the time he landed, there was already a flood of job offers awaiting him. “It truly doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you strive to be the best at what you do,” says Araman, who works 18 hours a day on average. “Thomas Edison once said that sleeping is a waste of time and I totally agree.”
Araman who sees the camera lens as a jewel, draws his inspiration from people’s success stories, moods, energy, passion and freedom. Yet he is most passionate about fashion photography, which he considers the highest form of commercial fine art. “I see myself doing fashion with a social message,” says Araman. “I always ask myself, ‘Why I am taking this picture?’ It really helps me learn and produce something unique and edgy.”
Next up, Araman has his sights set on the Egyptian market. “I feel Egypt is still virgin territory when it comes to my brand of photography. There’s all this culture, heritage and amazing locations which I’m just itching to focus my lens on!” Araman also plans to establish a creative and commercially focused internship program for photography students from across the region. And after that? With a man like Araman who knows. But as this incredibly talented photographer is fond of saying, “Anything is possible.”