An aspiring Actor from Mumbai, India, Joaquim Gonsalves‘ love for ‘Creation’ saw the light of day when he turned 24 and he’s never looked back ever since. He has played an active role in a few short films for the independent crew, ZylinderMeisters. He has also acted in a play and some well received short films in the UAE.
Besides his acting pursuits, Joaquim is an avid motorcyclist, audiophile, screenwriter and a gadget lover.
Having tried his hand at many streams of entrepreneurship since his birthday in 2011, he knew he wanted to do something alongside his thespian dreams.
Recent interactions with some key people in his life brought forth clarity in his goals. This came about through the art of photography and as such the tagline – Photography Helps Focus.
We sat down with Joaquim to speak about his career and how Dubai continues to inspire his creativity.
Tell us about your passion for photography and how Dubai has inspired you as a photographer?
Photography to me is a medium of expression. Back when I was kid, photography always piqued my interest, trying to figure out how cameras work, be it my toy camera or dad’s film camera. That, however, was nothing more than a little boy’s fancy. Flash forward to 2005, when digital media became more mainstream, mom got us our first – a Sony DSC P200 – one that is still going strong to this day. Today’s smartphones have more megapixels than that old workhorse, but it was with that simple device that my childhood fascination began to mature.
Since then I’ve perhaps clicked a mere 15,000 images across all devices – a number that may be considered far too low by most shutterbugs, but in the end numbers count for nothing if there’s no substantial improvement in quality. My horizon began to widen in 2010, when my elder brother got a DSLR. Finally in November 2015, I began to take it seriously with my very own. And I’ve just kept learning more with every shoot I’ve done ever since.
Photography has the ability to transcend time. As humans, we cherish our memories to the fullest, both good and bad, for the joys and the lessons they bring to us. It’s also a medium that enables you to showcase your own unique point of view. Personally, I revel in being able to do things with subtlety. Photography can help you express without forcing your point of view.
Dubai possesses an ideal blend of the old and the new. This, along with its brilliant diversity of cultures enables one to capture a wide variety of aspects and moods of the city. I’m constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to shoot and with a new event announced almost every week, there’s never a dearth of click-worthy moments, like the recent Eid Al Adha fireworks. Not to forget countless other events like MEFCC (Middle East Film & Comic Con), GITEX, Global Village and special film screenings. If it wasn’t for this city I probably would not have managed to learn and improve in such a short time.
Also, it was here I met a couple of friends in the last year that helped me get out there and use the camera. One of whom comes from a family of photographers. Her motivation to use her smartphone rubbed off on me in good measure.
It’s one of the reasons I always say, the best camera is the one in your pocket. The other friend is a guy who uses this maxim to the fullest. His vacation shots in Thailand using a 3 year old smartphone with its cracked screen and faulty charging is just amazing for his current level. There are also a few other close friends and family who never stopped believing in my skills and that goes a long way too. So in conclusion, I can confidently sum up that an exciting and welcoming city with the right company of friends is how Dubai keeps me inspired.
Art in Dubai
How do you keep your creativity alive?
Wow! I never thought I’d find this question difficult, but I guess that’s the answer right there. Let me elaborate.
•Sometimes with creative pursuits we find ourselves pondering endlessly. I believe the best thing is to just ‘DO.’ With photography, it’s important to be able to capture the moment rather than overthink the technicalities. This gets better with practice.
•I love to create challenges for myself. For instance, this July, I turned 30 and that’s when the idea to do something different really gave my photography a shot in the arm. I did a pet project called #30daysofturning30 where I posted one new image each day, while having the images reflect different stages of my life. The project made me consistently practice and improve.
•I’m always open to learning. New ideas and techniques fuel one’s creativity.
•Life itself is creativity and creativity is life. It helps to step back and take in the sights and sounds. It could be a stunning sky, a beautiful plant, a kid holding his father’s hand, or even a bird sitting on your window. Every little thing can inspire us in this world but there won’t be too many moments to capture if we don’t train our eyes to see them.
• YouTube. The sheer amount of valuable content available freely to us should be more than enough to keep improving. It’s rightly said, “Watch Less and Do More.” So learn, apply, make mistakes, repeat.
• Gear. Don’t get caught up with the equipment. I’ve heard this from the best and have experienced it first hand. The novelty of a new device soon wears off. I would suggest to start with your smartphone. It’s the most economical and quickest way to learn important basics like composition and lighting.
• Edit. Always edit your photos. There’s nothing wrong with minor adjustments like brightness and contrast. Some of my best work has been through the phone. There are plenty of free apps these days for the same.
• Consistent practice is key. Do it for 15 days and see for yourself how quickly you can grow. Practice with other photographers too. Check out social media groups and forums to get opportunities to meet up with them and go on photo walks.
• Permissions & Laws. Educate yourself about the locations you click in. For example, some spots may permit a phone camera but not a camera with a zoom lens. Other places could be sensitive in nature, like government buildings.
• Be proud of your work. Every image, blog, article, film, anything that you create is a labor of love. No project can be truly perfect and that is where the beauty lies. Being proud of your work is a sign of confidence.
• Don’t give up. You will face a lot of frustrations. Someone may walk into your shot. The composition may be off. You realize only at home that the image was out of focus or someone asks you to delete an image even if it ideally portrays the human condition. By all means respect their choices. Just remember, when you start off, 60-80% of your shots won’t be usable. Keep at it and the odds will soon be in your favor.
Has the use of social media helped you promote your work and gain recognition? Any advice that you can give from your experience?
Absolutely! Beyond my expectations, to be frank. My first Instagram post was about a year ago. 21st August 2015. This was again due to those two friends who insisted I get onto the Insta bandwagon. But I’ve been posting my work since the pre-Facebook days.
•Always search for relevant hashtags that have the highest usage count. Tag the right people on the image as well. It could be a famous hotel in your shot or a store with a social media profile. Search for their accounts before you post so that you know the correct name.
•A lot of aspects of your image can be a valid hashtag. eg: architecture, bokeh, lighttrails, long exposure.
•Instagram has plenty of shout-out profiles, just like Passion for Dubai, that do features. Tag them too. Its quite rewarding to be featured by them, not to mention giving you enhanced exposure.
•Many consumer brands also tag related features and contests. Follow them and turn on notifications to get updated. Anything from your wife’s handbag or your husband’s golf club to your child’s tablet PC. The choices for photography are endless.
•Create good, quality content. Don’t post images just because you want to post a certain amount each day. It is all right to skip a few days than to post something you haven’t fully worked on. It’s your profile and only you should control it.
•Link your other social media profiles like Facebook, Flickr, etc. so that you can auto share. For Twitter I personally post images separately, as users are more responsive to a visible image than a redirected link, but you can see what works better for you. I believe there is an app called IFTTT that can auto post to Twitter. But I am yet to try it out.
•Join and post in photography groups on Facebook.
– Actively participate in the conversations on groups. Make sure to follow all the rules in these forums & thank every single comment of feedback/appreciation that you receive on your images. Advice is useful and gratitude is free!
– Don’t ever get into online battles unless absolutely necessary. 95% of the time it never is.
– Be genuine.
– Don’t forget to switch off and connect with people in the real world too. That’s the most important in the long run.
Finally, while social media is very much about marketing and numbers, focus should be on the core activity which is to have fun. We shoot because we enjoy photography and that should never get side-tracked.
You mention that coming to Dubai has provided you with opportunities to hone your creative skills at a much faster rate than you would back home, giving you more exposure on your acting career. Can you tell us about it?
Back in India in 2012, I was privileged to have met a couple of people who wanted to make a short film for the popular 48Hour Film Festival. Our first two short films under the team named ZylinderMeisters was enough to make me realize my calling – Acting. As the legend Jack Lemmon once said, “If you really do want to be an actor who can satisfy himself and his audience, you need to be vulnerable.” That is an experience that I find unrivaled by any other creative field.
We’ve done a few other shorts since then and have even become best friends. One of these shorts was an inspiring film called ‘Lost and Found’ for the YWCA Mumbai. Other successful films were a scene re-enactment from Christian Bale’s American Psycho and our first one, The Musical Connect. I have also written scripts for two short films, which are currently under development. Before I moved I was even lucky to train for a month under Bollywood senior – Ashok Purang. A gem of a person and a brilliant acting coach.
Nine months after I moved to Dubai in 2014, I heard about a Screen Acting course from Australian actor and playwright Alex Broun. That one course opened up the industry here for me in a big way. In a span of just a year, the number of opportunities I have seen come my way in terms of theater and film is astounding to say the least: One play for the Short+Sweet event, 5 short films including one for Emirates Airlines and the most recent, ‘Screen 13’, a psychological thriller for American University Dubai which is currently being prepped for the festival circuit. Everyone has been really supportive and involved in these projects. ‘Screen 13’ for instance, is my best work till date and I feel blessed to have worked and become friends with such promising and amazingly talented individuals.
In all these four years, one thing has stayed common. The immense satisfaction from a film/play well done and the collaborative aspect adds priceless value to the whole experience. I still have a long way to go but as long as I can maintain the momentum, I feel confident that I can continue to pursue my passion of Film and Photography.
What makes Dubai special?
So many things!
•The fact that I could quickly realize some of my dreams after trying for almost half a decade.
•Being able to meet some really wonderful people.
•The potential to support upcoming talent.
•Its cultural diversity and yet the ability to provide something for everyone. Especially those in the creative field.
All photos are curtesy of Joaquim Gonsalves