Waleed Shah is a man on a mission. Born and raised in the UAE, his love of photography has seen him tell the stories of real people in unfiltered and very honest ways (check out his Rock Your Ugly project). For him, it’s his passion and life calling, but since the global pandemic, his work has taken a big hit.
Recognising that this was a very real story that the rest of the freelance community were also dealing with, Waleed launched a concept to help people get hired – through his photo series. So a little over a month ago, Mowjood was born and launched on Instagram. Literally meaning “I’m here, I exist” in Arabic, Waleed’s home has been transformed into a full-blown studio, with freelance talent coming in to tell their story and be photographed as part of a magazine-style photo shoot to remind potential employers that the creative community is alive and ready to work. “The world needs some compassion at the moment, so I wanted to see what I can do to help. Most of us freelancers are out of work, we’re feeling the downside, everyone is in the same place, everyone is at home hanging out with their kids or at home alone, so I thought about highlighting the little guys that are hustling and the amazing talent that exists so they can hopefully get hired” explains Waleed.
Waleed used the aesthetic of black and white photographs to highlight the unique stories and talent that exists in the freelance community, and the results have seen him inundated with bookings. Designers, models, film producers, writers and DJs have been through his doors, telling their stories and experiences which are then translated into photographs and headlines to highlight their talents. “I want people to come away from the photoshoot feeling like rock stars”, Waleed explained who’s being doing three photoshoots a day for over a month. Waleed’s way of doing things is contemporary and casual. “We just hang out” he added. “I mostly come up with the headline as we’re talking – something they say just captures their personality and talents.” Some of Waleed’s photographs include titles such as DJ, photographer and content creator under “Not your average habibi”, “Don’t touch my hair” and “just a dope human being”.
“Freelancers are often forgotten about, we’re not on salaries, or on anyone’s books so we have to hustle,” added Waleed. People pay what they feel and if they can’t Waleed hopes that ‘some good karma’ will be sent his way. And with bookings up until mid-July already, Waleed should prepare for a huge pay-off from the universe.