The story behind Mashid Mohadjerin's spontaneous documentary shot

Mashid Mohadjerin's spontaneous shot: teenagers mill around a tractor and trailer in a muddy field, one of them smoking.
This group of teenage farmers in the Jordan Valley had taken a break in an interesting composition that photographer Mashid Mohadjerin found visually pleasing, but scattered when they saw her readying her camera. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. © Mashid Mohadjerin

Canon Ambassador and Tehran-born documentary photographer Mashid Mohadjerin was travelling in the Jordan Valley when she came across this group of young farmers taking a cigarette break. It led to a spontaneous shot that she likes because it was unplanned, with that element of surprise able to be felt in the final result.

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"It was 2016. I was travelling around the Jordan Valley (on that day with a female activist organisation called Machsom Watch) as part of a personal project about women and resistance in the Middle East. The activist group are Israeli women who observe, monitor and document the Israeli Defence Force checkpoints in the West Bank," she says.

Trained as a visual artist, Mashid has explored topics in her photography such as displacement, cultural identity, resistance and protest. She has worked with subjects and publications around the world. This Jordan Valley trip was part of an arts research project that has now become a PhD in the Arts, which Mashid is pursuing at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium.

"These boys are farmers. They're young teenagers, probably between 13 and 16 years old. I saw them standing together smoking and chatting as if in a movie scene. But when I got my camera out, most of the boys ran off or hid – they didn't want to be caught smoking in a photograph! Only the boy in the centre stayed in exactly the same pose looking into the camera. Although the initial scene changed, I still think it’s a strong image with the added movement of some of the boys getting away or trying to hide."

An elderly Palestinian shepherd in a yellow coat stands on a rocky hillside with his flock.
Fouad, a shepherd in the Jordan Valley. © Mashid Mohadjerin
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To capture her image of the young farmers, Mashid used a lens that was relatively new to her. "I just took one shot. I was using my Canon EOS 5D Mark III and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, which I'd just started working with at the time. The latest L-series lenses are very quick to respond. That's essential for the type of photography where you have to capture a moment. If your lens doesn't react fast enough, you're going to miss it.

"I usually prefer working with fixed lenses but in this case the zoom gives you even more opportunity to capture a moment, a scene, an expression that can pass within a few seconds. You need to be able to capture it before it's gone."

This picture is typical of Mashid's documentary style, which draws on candid shots as a way to explore "authentic human moments", she says. "I'm looking for that moment when someone isn't quite aware of the camera being there – before the subject becomes self-conscious and adjusts his or her expression or posture for me as a photographer. I like my pictures to have a dynamic feel but to also have a feeling of stillness, as if time has been frozen and kept. That is what makes photography unique and desired by so many, perhaps because of a longing to hold on to tiny bits of the passing times.

"It's almost like a tableau where things are happening but there isn't too much action, nothing too spectacular or sensational. I don't like images of people yelling or screaming. I prefer to offer a glimpse of daily life."

Написано от Rachel Segal Hamilton

Mashid Mohadjerin's kitbag

The key kit for pro documentary photography

Mashid Mohadjerin holds a Canon camera to her eye as she takes a photograph.


Canon EOS 5D Mark III

A full-frame 22.3MP DSLR with 61-point autofocus and 6fps continuous shooting, this camera offers manual control over everything, plus a built-in HDR mode.


Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

This professional-quality standard zoom lens offers outstanding image sharpness and a robust L-series build. Its constant f/2.8 aperture enables you to take superb photos even in low light, and to control depth of field with ease. "The latest L-series lenses are very quick to respond," says Mashid. "That's essential when you have to capture a moment."

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