Eye of the Explorer: Dory Younes & D-Productions

It's been a while since the last LebArtFt. I've been on the hunt for local artists, but they've been in hiding. Luckily, some of Dory Younes' photographs and I met on the online abyss of the Web.

Younes, a business graduate from the American University of Beirut, moved to Lebanon five years ago from Muscat, Oman. He acquired his photography skills through personal interest and is completely self-taught. 

Losing Sight
© Dory Younes

I found his work to be particularly interesting because it's so diverse in terms of style, genre and location. In my experience with photographers, I've found that many dismiss certain techniques in favor of their usual style. "I only take staged photography" some declare. "I don't do digital". "Editing photographs is pretty much cheating". Whatever it is, ruling out options is limiting and totally unnecessary - and in my opinion, an indication of a fear of technical failure. 

Experimental photography is one of Younes' feats. It's unpredictable. You won't know what his next photograph will be, but you know you're in for a surprise. Never is his style consistent. He seemingly fulfills a curious desire to tap all genres, and by the rate he posts his photographs - you know he' s nowhere near done exploring, genres and locations alike.

I'm big on street photography, so I was shocked to see that his were as visually strong as his other photographs. He captures the nature of his scene by carefully selecting the right way to approach it.

If you're looking for some sort of focus in Younes' works, you won't find it. At least not yet. He seems to be exploring the capabilities of his camera, his software and his surroundings, both inclusively and exclusively.  

I chatted with Younes on the topic of his works.

Men in Trucks 
© Dory Younes 

Bananapook: How does shooting photos outside the country compare to sticking to Beirut?

Dory Younes: Photographs are photographs no matter where they are taken; however, the only difference between the two is what you expect to find to create your image. For instance, Beirut is a very congested city, home to buildings built with stone over 30 years ago to concrete giants recently finished. Taking photographs of the city itself is not my interest in this case; it’s more of what goes on deep inside the city, its whispers. Beirut and its outskirts are home to compositions that speak a story, ones that represent the voice of the people, even the traditional that is slowly disappearing. 

Comparing Beirut to a European city, for example Prague, the composition immediately changes even though both are home to approximately the same number of people. The reason for that is because of the uniform tradition that has been preserved within the buildings themselves. The city is historic and built in a way that if I were to take a photograph that didn’t include its architecture, I would have failed to capture its true essence. 

Slightly Slanted
© Dory Younes

B: Is D-Productions more of a photographer alias, or a business?

DY: D-Productions is both an alias and a business. However, recently I decided to change that to just my name. I started off with D-Productions during my freshman year in AUB, and at the time I wanted to create a business that would evolve and grow as I grew in university. I wanted to combine photography/design with what interested people the most here, the nightlife. For the first couple of years, I would set up teams that would work on hosting various events at venues around Beirut where we created our own themes, designs, and coverage for the events. 

Apart from those events, I also worked as freelancer taking projects for clients, and these would be anything from menu designs to photo-shoots.

The reason I changed the name was due to the change in my vision, I learned that I should focus more on one certain path and invest heavily in it, and that’s were I chose photography as my primary specialization. 

Three Times the Sound
© Dory Younes

B: You have a few HDR photos. Any thoughts on the process?

DY: HDR photography is field of interest on its own, and the results that you get from such photography are absolutely stunning, but one has to realize that it doesn’t work well with everything. 

The idea behind HDR photography is that multiple shots are taken of the same scene at different exposures, this way you capture both foreground and background elements without losing anything due to the darkness or shadows. This works extremely well with landscapes or subjects that are not moving, giving you greater detail and room to play around with the image. Many photographers use HDR processing to make an image “pop-out,” where the elements within the image heavy expressed. 

I am not a big fan of over expressing the image too much; I feel as though it looses its purity and interrupts the flow between the subjects. I have used HDR photography before, usually when I've gone out on a photo-shoot I take a picture at my desired settings as well as three other images at different exposures. Deciding on whether or not to use HDR processing comes later on in the processing phase.

Nature's Blink
© Dory Younes

B: Are your best photographs spontaneous or are they staged - and why?

DY: Of all my photographs, I would say that 95% of them are spontaneous and the remainder staged. Staged photography is perfected and studied, everything is directed, even the emotions. On the other hand, spontaneous images are real, at the spur of the moment, capturing the true personality of the subject.

 Staged photography works in certain situations, and that’s usually when a photographer is hired/wants to deliver a very specific point or message. Most, if not all, advertising is staged and that’s mainly because spontaneous moments occur for a split second. It’s a challenge due to its nature; a photographer may not always have the perfect setting during these moments. The photographer's job is to be at the right place at the right time, and capture a moment that would eventually convey a message, and that’s what I love doing.

My next comical series, something I will be doing on the side if it works out, is going to focus on a moment that all humans share; the sneeze. It’s the most challenging moment to capture especially since I wont be inducing a sneeze with black pepper or anything else, and the photographs will freeze a moment not a lot of people notice and we ourselves cannot see. The results will be funny, as I have noticed some really funny features that only show during the sneeze, but at the same time very challenging to make a whole series the way I am seeing it in my head.

Pleasant Shower
© Dory Younes

B: Are you a frequent submitter to national/international photography competitions?

My love for photography actually originated from competitions, and it even grew stronger when I placed third in the Nature category in the 2009 International Photography Awards. At the time, placing in an International competition was something big, so it encouraged me to try more often and harder, each time raising the bar a little more and challenging myself by entering harder competitions. 

I enter many competitions when I have the chance to and that’s because I want to compare myself with others, it’s a benchmarking tool for me. I have won many awards but at the same time I have entered many competitions.

For the ones that I don’t place, I always dig deeper and try to find out what I did wrong and what I could do better, and from that I learn. It’s the way I research, and the more competitions I enter, the more I understand the politics behind it all.

Sunny Amsterdam
© Dory Younes

B: What piece of advice would you give to a photography newbie?

DY: To a photographer newbie, I would recommend taking as many photographs as you can and never deleting any! The photographs you take will guide you to compose an image better the next time. Play around with what you have by changing settings and understanding your camera better. Once you have taken enough photographs and discovered the full potential of your camera, that’s when you can start learning how to capture moments that convey the message you want to convey. 

Eventually you will begin to recognize your style and what differentiates your photography from others! 

Along the way, always post your photography on trusted online networks and competitions. I usually post my work on 500px.com and from that I see people’s reactions to the different images I take and at the same time I get to see what other photographers out there are doing. It’s all a learning process, and the more you review and get reviewed, the better you become. 

© Dory Younes

B: Do you have any funny photography-expedition story to share? For some odd reason - it seems as though every Lebanese photographer does.

DY: I usually take road trips to discover photogenic areas around Lebanon and one time I got attracted to a large grass field that had one cow in the center and nothing else around. The setting was perfect and the sky was as blue as I needed it to be, with the perfect amount of clouds. 

It was a great opportunity for me to capture a great portrait of the cow so I got as close as I can to the cow (knowing that it wont harm me). Subjects in the lens appear much closer than they are in real life so at one point I felt like my camera was touching the nostril. There I waited for about 15 minutes until finally, the cow was about to put her head down, grab a bunch of grass, and chew. 

I was so focused on making sure I don’t miss the moment the mouth chews when all of a sudden it makes the loudest noise I have ever heard a cow make, and attacks me. 

Well, it didn’t really attack me but while squatting for 15 minutes and staring at the cow for so long through the lens, it looked like it was already on top of me, about to chew me. I panicked, lost balance, and ran away from her which was quite embarrassing when I got far away from it and realized I just lost the moment and ran away from a cow.

 What was even worse is that the whole time squatting, I was on the phone speaking with my girlfriend, who unfortunately witnessed the whole scene over the phone.

To see more of Younes' works, check out his 500px profile

Create, appreciate,

All images on Bananapook are copyrighted material and all rights are reserved to the respective artists. 


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