Diwan

Khalid Al-Busaidi: Behind The Lens at The Royal Opera House Muscat

Many have seen breathtaking images from the Royal Opera House Muscat‭, ‬images that have been used around the world by the BBC and‭ ‬National Geographic‭, ‬yet few know the man behind the lens‭. ‬Sharifa Al-Badi sat down with House Photographer‭, ‬Omani national Khalid Al-Busaidi‭, ‬to discover more about how his childhood hobby turned into a spectacular career‭. ‬

It was a cool evening in Muscat‭, ‬sitting by the beach was the perfect setting to have a conversation with a passionate photographer‭. ‬The waves were gently rolling in and out in front of us‭, ‬and if being a good photographer meant serenity and precision then‭ ‬Khalid embodied this‭. ‬Proudly adorning the Omani formal dress‭, ‬photography gear in hand‭, ‬his presence brings a strange sense of‭ ‬calmness‭. ‬His answers were like the captured moments in photographs‭; ‬steady but well composed‭. ‬

How did your journey into photography start‭? ‬

My dad had one of these old cameras that I was obsessed with and he would take pictures of his friends‭, ‬dinners he attended or hosted‭. ‬I guess my dad’s interest in photography is what sparked mine‭. ‬At first‭, ‬my family thought it was a childish obsession but it became my career‭ ‬and I am happy about that‭. ‬

How did they react when you told them you wanted to study photography‭? ‬

Naturally‭, ‬they told me to study something more feasible but they did not stop me‭, ‬no one anticipated that months after I graduated I would be the House Photographer of one of Oman’s most important cultural sites‭. ‬I love photography‭; ‬for me that meant to eat‭, ‬breathe‭, ‬live‭, ‬and study everything about it‭. ‬

How is it day to day at the ROH‭? ‬

Well it’s beautiful and different‭, ‬there is no set routine‭. ‬I am lucky I get to meet so many artists from all over the world‭. ‬I even got‭ ‬to meet my favourite cellist Yo-Yo Ma‭. ‬I have to attend all shows and events related to the ROH and take pictures‭, ‬I even get to attend rehearsals‭, ‬which is fun‭, ‬and get personal with the crew‭. ‬I take photos of them before the show‭, ‬which I think is really important‭, ‬you have to connect with your subjects‭. ‬Sometimes I work late during evenings‭, ‬on weekends‭, ‬and holidays‭. ‬

Tell me more about your technique‭…

I use a Canon 5D MK3‭, ‬which has silent mode so no one can hear the shutter sound and of course I need a sharp lens‭.  ‬Some photographers like their pictures over saturated but I like mine to be balanced and up to 90%‭ ‬closer to‭ ‬“Reality‭.‬”

What makes a good photo‭?‬

There are things many of us don’t notice‭. ‬For me‭, ‬taking photos was about capturing moments‭, ‬scenes that people may have missed or didn’t see‭. ‬You know‭? ‬They look back and think‭, ‬“Wow‭, ‬when did this happen‭?‬”‭ ‬I guess that’s what I want my photos to portray‭. ‬Let me show you some pictures‭.‬

(Khalid takes out his laptop and shows me an array of images‭) ‬I remember my favorite picture‭, ‬a ballerina in her tutu in mid-air‭, ‬he tells me this is during rehearsal’s no one is really watching her but he hoped to capture the emotion in her moves and poise as a ballerina‭.

It is impossible to capture what the naked eye can’t see‭, ‬but it is possible to capture a fleeting moment‭, ‬a certain point where it is worth it to make time stop‭. ‬Sometimes we are‭ ‬experiencing something and the moment is over too quickly‭. ‬Photography allows you to document life the way you want to see it‭. ‬

Have you been featured in any exhibitions‭?‬

I am really glad for my solo exhibition‭ ‬‘Music Reflections’‭ ‬last year‭, ‬which was composed of 45‭ ‬images in light of Oman’s 45th National Day for the best performances at the Opera‭. ‬There is also a book published by the ROH with my photos‭, ‬which did‭ ‬really well‭. ‬I am planning to exhibit my work internationally soon and this exhibition will focus on unique angles of Royal Opera House Muscat performances‭.‬

How is the photography scene in Oman right now‭?‬

I’m glad to say that many Omani photographers have won international awards all over the world‭. ‬We’re aiming for more recognition and participation in competitive challenges between photographers across the world‭.‬

Words by Sharifa Al-Badi

Images courtesy of Khalid Al-Busaidi

This interview was first featured in Khaleejesque Magazine Issue #23, Sep/Oct 2016

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