This week’s Questions with a Pro features Hassan Abdul-Kareem. ASMP wanted to take the opportunity to feature this talented photographer during Black History Month because of his position as a minority photographer, as well as his active role in supporting minority photographers in the field. Hassan is a very talented sports photographer and has built a diverse photography business for himself. Here, Hassan explains his upcoming Photographers of Color event, and some details about his experience as an African American photographer.
We asked: Please describe the Photographers of Color event you have planned for March, 2018. What inspired you to put on an event like this?
Hassan said: The (POC) Photographers of Color by Brotha Love Production for March 2-18 is devoted to providing opportunities in motorsports to Minorities and Woman Photographers that are truly underrepresented in sports photography. This March is devoted to Women of Color and others to get trained shooting NASCAR for 3 days. Photographers of Color was inspired by many aspects of my 59 years of life! Growing up in Lansing, Michigan, I loved cars and racing, but it was not accessible to African Americans. And if it was, it was in the capacity of working at the track. I never saw African American Photographers at NASCAR so I saw a real need. I knew “Everybody Likes Driving Fast.” I saw an opportunity to help inspire a new market of photographers and a new audience…
We asked: What were the most important steps you took while planning this event? Are there any tips you would like to share with others looking to put on successful events?
Hassan said: In putting an event like this on, you must have great partnerships with sponsors like the Tracks where I hold workshops, as well understand the whole reality of logistics. The key is having a team and real structure with timelines and a plan. I have 2 business partners that provide the logistical support through planning sessions. The motto we use is quite simple: “Proper planning prevents problems and poor performance.” We produce 2 major POC Events in November and March, so the planning for 2 races that are roughly 3 months apart can be rough. We have years of experience in this, and have taught over 100 students though. I would share that setting your goals and going after them is extremely important, as well as understanding that solving problems and overcoming obstacles is key! That is part of the business!
We asked: How important are events like this to your overall photography business? How do you approach making decisions about time allocation to events versus shooting?
Hassan said: Photographers of Color is very important not from a business standpoint, but the sociological aspect of exposing photographers from minority backgrounds to a sport most never thought about shooting and gaining a perception on how this sport was seen in minority communities. We believe in breaking down barriers and sharing the beauty with our communities to reveal racing as a pure sport. POC’s mission is to break barriers so other minority photographers can have the courage to shatter the stereotype that has been established by others. The workshop doesn’t affect our overall business at all, but rather is important to giving back which I see as an obligation.
We asked: Has your experience as a minority in the photography industry been a positive one thus far? What was the biggest obstacle you faced?
Hassan said: As an African American male photographer, my experience has been a positive one thus far. That question has many components that cannot be separated at all: 1) my race, and 2) the experiences. It is an industry that has a tremendous amount of racial biased and subtle racism. It has somewhat gotten better over the last 10 years though. Social Media has been a tremendous help in providing avenues for African Americans and other minority photographers, but we will encounter the same good ole boy network. For me, I have been a maverick and believe in making my path into this arena. I have succeeded to some extent by carving out my areas of interest and then defining my goals within them. I look at the amount of African American photographers at events like the Super Bowl and NBA Finals, and notice that African Americans provide over 75% of the talent in the NFL and above 85% in the NBA, but less than 1% of photographers are African Americans. The community that provides talent is underrepresented to say the least. The questions that get asked about African American photographers like, “Can they shoot?” or “Do they have the equipment?” represent some of the blatant bias other photographers don’t deal with on a regular basis. The problem is in the people not the craft though…When we look at each other as human beings and leave the preconceived mindsets at the door for new understandings, things will change.
I have shot super bowls, NBA finals, World Series and other major events. I just feel that these leagues and Getty need to truly change to be more inclusive and allowing of people of color to share how they see things!!
We asked: What do you wish you knew when first deciding to pursue photography?
Hassan said: I retired 20 years ago as a stockbroker and a disabled veteran. Photography was something that helped me with dealing with my injuries in the military, along with adjusting to life with Multiple Sclerosis. My dream was to travel and shoot major sporting events, and photography has taken me all over the globe. This industry is wide open if you’re not scared of the road ahead and you believe in yourself!