New York Film Academy BFA photography student Omar Alturk has been busy creating visual stories on two continents, but the 25-year old photographer recently found the time to appear on-camera for a spotlight on Al Aribiya, to share his perspective as a Middle Eastern photographer working in the U.S. media capital of Los Angeles.
Still in the midst of his studies at NYFA Los Angeles, Alturk has already built a diverse portfolio as a photographer, working as a behind-the-scenes photographer on film sets as well as creating editorial and fashion stories in the U.S. and in his home country of Saudi Arabia. Recently, he created a campaign for Royal Legacy.
He told Al Aribiya’s audience in the Middle East that he believes photographers in Saudi Arabia stand a great chance of making the crossover to the American market. “The thing that makes you different from the rest of the photographers here is to make a Middle Eastern touch on the photograph or the model or anything you have,” said Alturk. “That I think is what makes you different and creates a different opportunity for you as a photographer in the U.S.”
We had a chance to catch up with Alturk to hear more about his approach to photography and what has been inspiring him lately.
NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what made you decide to leave Saudi Arabia to attend the New York Film Academy?
OA: After I graduated from high school, I honestly didn’t know what I should do. I’ve studied in three colleges but I didn’t finish a semester in any of them, so I decided to work. I worked in customer service at a rent-a-car company, then after a while I got a job at the NBC Bank. All that time I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing, even though I was in a good status at the Bank. I had this feeling that this is not what I’m born for.
So I decided to move to the U.S., but before I went I decided that I wanted to study something I love and I care about. I had photography as my number one interest on my list. After some research I found NYFA, and I found that I can get BFA in photography in Los Angeles California, where everyone wants to be!
NYFA: What inspired you to become a photographer?
OA: Since I was a kid, I was obsessed with photography.
I think what made me crazy about it was that my mom used to take a lot of picture of me and my sisters with film camera, and whenever I had the time I used to check the prints of the film and look at it. Every time I checked the pictures, I liked the fact that I could remember everything in that moment: my age, the way I looked, what my interests were. That’s what made me become a photographer: to keep these moments of life in my hard drive and my memory.
NYFA: How has your experience in the photography school been?
OA: When I started studying at NYFA my experience in photography wasn’t perfect. I knew how to use a camera, but I had never touched any lighting equipment before. So when I started, I was so happy that the school provides any equipment I could ask for.
That helped me a lot in the learning process, and I became knowledgeable in lighting and how to use it in proper way — what lights I should use if I want some type of style in mind.
NYFA: Can you tell me about some of the campaigns and projects you’ve worked on?
OA: There are many projects I have done through 2016 until today. I’ve worked on over 10 short films as behind-the-scenes photographer, and on one feature film as behind-the-scenes photographer, too.
There are also many small gigs I’ve worked on that gave me a good experience in photography in Los Angeles. Lately I photographed the owners of a clothing store in Beverly Hills and their collection, which was a big thing for me.
NYFA: Are there any projects that particularly stand out for you, that you’re the most proud of?
OA: For me, I am proud of all of them. But I would say the project which I enjoyed the most was the feature film I’ve worked on. The shoot was 21 days, for 12 hours a day. It was a lot of fun and a challenge at the same time, since I had school on some days of the shooting, but luckily it all worked for the good!
NYFA: Do you plan on returning to Saudi Arabia to continue your photography career, or rather stay in the U.S.?
OA: This is still a big decision to me since I’m still studying, but I would say that I can work on both and that what I’m aiming for. I don’t want people to know me only as a Saudi photographer, and that’s it! I’d rather be an international photographer who’s traveling all over the world for photography, and I want to be known worldwide — not only in my city or my country, or even only the U.S.
NYFA: Can you tell me about your upcoming project taking place in Saudi Arabia?
OA: The project I’m trying to do is to use my skills I gained at NYFA in photography to show different sides of the holy cities in Saudi. I’m starting at Madina, which is my hometown, then to Mecca, where the Grand Mosque is.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Omar Alturk for taking the time to share some of his story with the NYFA community.