This week I spoke to Abdi Ibrahim AKA AbShoots; an extremely talented photographer and visual artist based in Seattle. I came across his Instagram a few years ago and have been captivated by his work ever since. His signature style embodies contemporary minimalism, often set in soft, muted tones. He’s already collaborated with the likes of Adidas Originals and he’s definitely on his way to becoming a internationally known name in the visual arts scene.
Please introduce yourself?
“My name is Abdi Ibrahim, I’m a 22 year old photographer from Seattle. I’ve been shooting for about 8 years now, so since freshman year of school or ninth grade I should say. As time went on I naturally saw myself more drawn to taking photos and just analysing art as a whole and understanding it. I grew even more passionate about photography the last 2 years specifically, mainly the way I can tell stories through it and and say things without really saying anything. Portraiture specifically.
I think it’s amazing to see human emotion and interaction captured in a still image. Kind of like looking back at a memory over and over again without experiencing it. Recently I grew a huge passion for directing scenes and making moments happen in front of the camera the way I see the world or how I want to depict something specifically.”
How did you first get involved with photography?
“I took an intro to photo class in 9th grade. My friend Cameron Bowles was a photographer and inspired me at the time to actually take the class and learn a bit. I ended up not really feeling that I gained alot from photo classes and recently I took the self-teaching route. My first camera was a film camera and I saw myself come back full circle to it after over 7 years of shooting digitally.”
Did you encounter any challenges or setbacks when you began photographing professionally?
“The main setback was life itself. Juggling sports, college, and actually trying to use photography as an outlet on the side has been difficult. On top of that just not knowing enough technical things about a camera or photography for so long, so a lack of knowledge.
Lack of support was a big one. Having to convince family and friends that this can actually be my career and be sustainable has been hard, but I just focused on the work and the support came naturally.”
What is your proudest moment?
‘I have a lot of proud moments, everyday. Every time I create an image I love or that makes me feel something, I’m proud. But as far as accomplishments my proudest moments were being able to shoot for Adidas Originals and shooting my first magazine cover last year. It made me feel a little bit of validation and assurance that maybe I can actually do this for a living.”
Are there any artists that inspire your photography style?
“I think as far as my style some photographers that inspire me deeply are Christopher Anderson of Magnun, Tyler Mitchell, Shirshore Arte, Ejatu Shaw, Hashem Shakeri and Mohammed Abdulle (Mabdulle).
I get inspired by a lot of different mediums especially music and film. Filmmakers that inspire me compositionally, colour wide, os storytelling wise include Wes Anderson and Roy Anderson.”
Do you feel there is any stigma working within the creative industries? If so, how would you recommend to overcome these?
“I think a huge stigma from outside the industry looking in, is that artists aren’t needed or that it’s a waste of time to be creative. I think we’re all artists in a way (not to be cliche). Even more literally we all take in or consume art daily. Whether it’s the musicians we listen to, the movies we watch, the articles we read, the paintings we buy. We’re all consumers and creators of art whether you’re a STEM major or a starving artist.”
What would you say to aspiring young creatives/photographers?
“I would say to be authentic, as best as you possibly can. Don’t fake the juice. Also, don’t get drowned in other people’s accomplishments. Sometimes as a creative you subconsciously compare yourself to others, especially in the social media age, where you see a 19/20 year old kid doing what you’re doing and blowing up everyday. I say to just keep level headed and consistently create something you love and make sure your hearts always in the right place.
Also, know your worth when signing up to give your art/agreeing to work on something! One of my favourite creatives, Steve Sweatpants of Street Dreams Mag told me ‘Not every opportunity is the right one.’ Which I’ve kept with me for a while. I feel like I’ve taken a lot of things that I felt were good for my career but weren’t in alignment with my passion or what I’m about. That conflict will eventually arise in the process. So now I try to keep it as organic as possible and know when to take something and when to leave it.”
What’s your ultimate goal(s)?
“I have a lot of little goals. Some big ones are to shoot cover art for an artist who’s music I admire. It’d be cool to have my art attached to a piece of music forever, cause one thing I always look at when listening to music is the cover art. Also to go on tour with an artist just for that fun experience.
Another goal would be to shoot a magazine cover whether it be I-D, Vogue, GUAP, or any other dope editorials. I definitely want to shoot with model Halima Aden too. We’re both Somali and to see her elevate and express her art at such a high level is truly inspiring especially as a hijabi model and overall just as a Somali woman.
A personal overall goal for myself is to eventually be able to use my art to help others whether it’s directly or indirectly with my photography. Especially those that are marginalised and misrepresented, i.e. the Black community, women, children with low income backgrounds. I’ve been raised in a low income household my entire life. As a Black kid in the U.S. I’ve seen how anti-blackness, years of colonialism, power dynamics and violence against us has directly led to impoverishment. I want to be able to voice that in my work. I think when my work can be a voice for thousands or millions and even create tangible help like money for people or housing, that’s when I’ve accomplished something bigger than any brand can give me.
Finally, what projects do you have upcoming?
‘I have a lot of dope stuff that I can’t confirm or talk about yet! But I am currently starting the process for my second photobook. I’m just excited for a lot of portfolio building. I think 2019’s going to be a big year, I just have to keep creating.”
You can check out his work and follow Abdi @abshoots