The shutterbug behind the viral photo

When Cyclone Mekunu lashed at the Southern part of the country about two weeks ago, it was an event that many media personalities and photographers knew was ripe with opportunity for exposure and career-making moments.
While journalists braved the cyclone to deliver the latest news, photographers were also there to witness the cataclysm and many of them came home with shots that not only amazed the internet, they were the talk of Oman netizens for days.
Amongst the many photographs that gained massive engagement and shares on social media was the one taken by Fine Arts teacher and photographer Hedi Ali Khecharem.
The photo — a man holding what appears to be a camera walking towards a wall of madly rushing water — was both scary and beautiful that an online commenter said, it was a ‘National Geographic-worthy photo.’
Monitoring the trends, Oman Daily Observer Features ended up using the photo as a cover of our May 28 issue.
While Hedi is the man behind the shot, the credit went to his friend who uploaded it first on Instagram. It is something they had been working on to get corrected.
We chatted with Hedi, who we discovered has lots of international participation in different galleries and exhibitions to his name and even qualified to Hamdan Ben Rached Al Maktoum Awards for artistic photography, to get to know a little bit more about him and the story behind the popular photo.

Tell us about yourself.
I am from Tunisia and a fine arts teacher here in Oman. I’d been teaching for about 8 years now. I like travelling and photography and in connection with the latter, I had been a member of the Photographic Society of Oman (PSO) for a while now.
I’d been doing photography since I was a student. It was just a hobby then but it turned out to be something more. I like taking photos that attract people’s attention and make them admire my work.

As a photographer, what do you specialise on?
I don’t have a field of specialty. I want to be able to adapt to different situations. I have faith that a photographer, as an artist, should not restrict or limit the field of his job.

Tell us about the viral photo. What’s the story behind it?
The photo was taken on the second day after Cyclone Mekunu. At about 4 pm, my friend Mohammed al Barami and I headed to Wadi Darbat and saw this massive waterfalls.
[Hedi and his friend Mohammed al Barami ensured that it was safe to get to the spot where they took the photo. Although much of the area was in different forms of disrepair, they managed to access the safe side of Wadi Darbat.)
I always aim to take exclusive and unique photos. With cyclone being rare in Oman, I tried doing an artistic shot that depicts what was happening and that could be of interest for everyone.
The result was what people had been talking about and sharing on social media.

Did you expect for the photo to be well-liked and would go viral?
I was not sure that the photo would be of great interest and admired by a large number of people but I was really surprised and at the same time so excited that it was shared by thousands of people.

What is it like to be a photographer in Oman?
I have a lot of respect to the Omani people. I also have great admiration for its amazing landscape and its wide variety of species of birds and animals. As a photographer, I found a lot of encouragement from PSO. Some friends were also helpful and stood by my side especially Mohammed Albarami and Said Mohamed Al Shamfari.