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Snapshots of reality

LAU alumna (B.S ’07) wins National Geographic Abu Dhabi photography competition.

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Photograph taken during the filming of “Ana Musawir National Geographic,” 6th and last episode, “Photo Essay – Fishermen.” © National Geographic Abu Dhabi
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Photograph taken during the filming of “Ana Musawir National Geographic,” 2nd episode, “Action Photography.” © National Geographic Abu Dhabi

Photographer Ansel Adams once remarked, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you heave heard, the people you have loved.” This all-encompassing view of what photography means is a philosophy that is also shared by LAU graphic design alumna Emilie Houwat.

“Roaming the city and interacting with people captivates me and I continue to develop my eye by constantly experimenting and learning new approaches,” Houwat says of how she is passionately pursuing her newly found interest in street photography.

Houwat, an LAU alumna in graphic design and member of the Beirut Street Photographers community (BSP), recently won the National Geographic Abu Dhabi competition, ‘Ana Musawir National Geographic’ (I am NatGeo Photographer)—a reality television show based in the United Arab Emirates. “Learning that I won was a great moment,” she enthuses, adding, “It was an amazing experience.”

‘I Am NatGeo Photographer’ features eight amateur photographers from across the Middle East. An avid photographer, Houwat decided to participate in the competition as an attempt to get out of her comfort zone and challenge herself. She joined 100 other applicants, who were shortlisted and then interviewed by the show’s director. Like most reality television programs, the budding photographers were given challenges to complete under deadline pressure.

“As a street photographer, I am used to looking around for opportunities. This helped a lot in the challenges,” she points out. The prize earned by Houwat is a feature in the National Geographic Arabia magazine, a two-week exhibition at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai and an advanced Nikon camera with accessories.

Having to deal with the critiques from the panel of judges—Jack Dabaghian, Matthew Dols and Laura El-Tantawy—also was a great learning experience. According to Houwat, “Even though opinions sometimes differed, the judges’ notes helped me look at things from a different perspective. It’s purely subjective.” Houwat was very comfortable on camera. “Everyone involved was very professional. The environment was kept light and comfortable and that allowed me to be myself.”

“I find shooting in the street relaxing, offering a calming energy that encourages me to continue to develop my style,” she explains. When asked what advice she has for budding photographers she says, “The learning never stops. Every photographer should remain true to themself and be open to discovering more and more about the craft in order to build an identity that truly belongs to him or her.”


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