Hi, my name is Aarief. I'm a professional photographer who specializes in visually documenting the indigenous peoples and cultures of the Himalayan region. I also run what I genuinely believe are among the very best photography tours in Asia, leading small groups of adventurous travelers and photography enthusiasts of all levels on unforgettable adventure vacations in Bhutan, northern India, and beyond.
Originally from Kashmir in India, a career in the IT industry brought me to Singapore, where I am still based. However, after sixteen years on the job I was ready for a change. Although I'd always kept in regular contact with my homeland while abroad, I somehow felt the need to get to know it better again - to get to know myself again. For me, then, photography was first and foremost a method of discovery.
Now photography is also my profession and I regularly contribute to both online and print publications and undertake commissions for major corporate and commercial clients across the Asia-Pacific region. I also teach photography to both adults and children alike.
My passion is for the people, cultures and landscapes of the Himalayas. My homeland, Kashmir, is an astonishingly beautiful part of the world - truly heaven on earth - that has sadly gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons. I want to change that.
In reality Kashmir is a deeply spiritual place and I want the world to know how generous and welcoming the Kashmiri people are, and to learn of the incredible natural beauty that my home has to offer - to both photographers and travelers alike. It is primarily this quest that inspires me in my work as a photographer.
Before running photography workshops and Asia adventure vacations I was already a regular traveler in my own lands. Indeed it was among the warm and sincere indigenous peoples of Kashmir and Ladakh, and then further afield in the high mountains and verdant valleys of Bhutan, that I first began to really develop my skills as a photographer.
Living in fast-paced, high-density Singapore for so long, I'd started to feel the need to reconnect with a different way of life, and with a different kind of people. To 'recharge the batteries' by experiencing direct contact with nature again - even if just for a short time. This was the initial seed that prompted me to embark upon my first asian photography tours. My life was totally transformed by the experiences I had and the people I met on these trips. Now I want others to be able to share these experiences with me.
Obviously my opinion is biased, however I really do believe that for anyone who is either passionate about improving their photography skills or just wants the opportunity to have more meaningful contact with the people they meet, these Kashmir and Bhutan photo tours are among the very best adventure holidays in Asia currently on offer. Indeed, while those so inclined will no doubt be shooting all day, every day, on my expeditions the emphasis is really on cultivating a bond with the people and land, so an interest in photography is not a prerequisite to joining us (although whether you can sustain this lack of interest until the end of the trip is another matter entirely!).
There are many photographers running travel photography workshops in Asia, some of them are very talented. There are also numerous good value adventure vacations in India and Bhutan that you could book if you were just looking to see something of off-the-beaten-track Asia on a stress-free tour. For anyone hoping to combine these two elements in a single trip-of-a-lifetime travel experience, however, there are considerably less options available. Here's where I can be of assistance.
More importantly though, while tuition from a good photography instructor will indeed help you to gain mastery of your camera, and a reputable tour operator can no doubt arrange to show you some truly amazing locations, what neither of these options provide is a real opportunity to build genuine, lasting relationships with the people you meet and the places you visit.
To be sure, those who join me on my Kashmir and Bhutan photo expeditions do learn how to take great shots, and will get to see some totally breathtaking scenery. But If there's one thing above all else that I can offer my traveling companions, it is the conditions in which to develop a true bond with the land and its inhabitants.
While our trip together will of course be painstakingly planned and expertly prepared, each expedition is just as much of a new adventure for me as it will be for you. I cannot stress this enough: even when traveling in Kashmir, the land in which I was born and raised, the discoveries we make will be discoveries for all of us.
Although we embark with a provisional itinerary in mind and our accommodation booked, we also travel with our own cook and provisions - along with a total sense of freedom and spontaneity. So if the opportunity arises, there's nothing stopping us from enjoying the hospitality of a nomad family camped out at 12,000 feet; waking on the mountainside to fresh milk and handmade bread, hot from the morning fire.
Adventures such as these occur often, and they are far from contrived or rehearsed. Indeed you can be confident that we will enjoy many profoundly inspiring and spontaneous experiences on our journey, all the while forging authentic relationships with wonderful new people that may last an entire lifetime.
In short, what I offer you is real. A million miles from the stage-managed cultural performances and purely superficial contact with local people that characterize so many so-called Asia adventure holidays. If I choose to organize these intimate expeditions for small groups of like-minded and passionate photographer-adventurers - rather than cashing in on the current popularity of Asian travel photography trips by running prefab-tours on a weekly basis - it is because this is what I love to do more than anything else.
please get in touch Contact.