A character sharpened by the desert

Salem al Hajri is more comfortable behind the camera than having the camera pointed at him. He made this very clear on the onset.
He shared that he likes it best when he tells peoples story through his photo and that his best works betray his innermost passion and love for photography.
Born in the eastern city of Bidiya, Salem grew in the midst of the desert which he believes was a major influence on the person he is today. In such a stark landscape where barely anything grows, he learned to have patience and the daily scenery has made him appreciate his natural surroundings even more.
“The desert taught me, other than patience, strength and self-reliance,” he said.
With barely any neighbours, he added, “It also taught me to appreciate people.”
Currently working as one of the department heads at the Ibra Technical College, he shared he officially set off on his journey as a photographer in 2015 when he bought his first professional camera — a Canon 5D M3.
“I always have a strong inclination for photography. It was just a hobby then and I was visually fed by the magazines and newspapers that I followed,” he said.
Completely self-taught, Salem dedicated an ample amount of time to learn the science of photography.
“Although I didn’t attend any courses, I taught myself everything I could using photography books and YouTube videos targeted at budding photographers and went along to photography trips with friends and colleagues who also taught me new ways to make my techniques even better,” said Salem.
Some of his earliest works followed a monochromatic theme, mostly black and white and this was what got Salem his much-deserved recognition when his photo collection won prizes at various competitions across the country.
This self-taught talent took up the challenges as they came but he believes his biggest motivation has all along been the critique from fellow photographers.
He said, “Early on in my photography journey, I received criticism but used that as the perfect opportunity to work harder and better my skills. I took it up as a challenge to prove to myself that I can do better than I think I can. Within a short period of time, I learned and trained myself to do better which lead me into winning a number of awards both within the country and abroad. This is how I became who I am today — a well-established photographer.”
Salem said that he owed much of his storytelling success from his childhood growing in the Bidiya desert. He uses his imagination to create, recreate and reimagine new themes for his style and method of photography thus creating something that was new and unique — a style of his own.
An almost free-form style of photography, Salem doesn’t let style decide what he wishes to photograph. With his camera always ready, a view, scenery or subject that intrigues him becomes the focus of his photography at that moment.
“I do not believe in specialisation in a particular genre of photography. With different genres comes different challenges but my end goal is to always come up with a visual treat,” he said.
“People’s lives, burst photography, wildlife and even black and white, they all capture a different aspect of what is around us yet creating something that tells a story of its own. Most of my photography reflects what is around me including nature, landscape and people,” he added.
Currently Salem and his current choice of camera, a Nikon D850 are working on a variety of projects, but his main focus now is on a series of desert photos that truly capture the essence of the great Arabian desert.
Gaining a fan following quickly, Salem’s dreams are much bigger! He hopes to be able to participate in more competitions both in the Sultanate and in other parts of the world along with someday hosting solo exhibitions.
Salem’s future plans also include a book of his best works and documenting the lives of the Omani people, sharing with the world what specialty of this country and its culture and heritage.

TITASH CHAKRABORTY & YERU EBUEN