Obofili: a name synonymous with Maldives beauty
Talent comes in many forms. For some, it comes naturally, while others turn one of their passions into a sought after talent. Ahmed ‘Obofili’ Shuau is a fine example of the latter; he has made a name for himself as one of the leading photographers in the Maldives through hard work and dedication. From a passion that began as a young man to a career that now earns him recognition both locally and globally, Shuau has indeed come a long way.
“A friend lent me one of those [Nikon] film cameras,” Shuau says, recalling his first experience with a camera as a teenage boy. “I was just an 18-year-old kid. I knew nothing about photography or even to properly operate a camera.”
That was in 2004 and he was working as an architectural technician cum graphic designer at an architectural design firm based in capital Male. In his free time from work, Shuau borrowed his friend’s camera and another one, which used CDs as storage, from his office, and just roamed around the city, capturing the architectural landscape of the congested city and daily lives of the people. The processed images — he was lucky enough to get unlimited number of images processed through his friend — evoked his creativity like nothing else did.
What better way to show the world the natural beauty we are blessed with than through photographs?
Shuau’s experimentation with the camera came right around the time Maldivians started getting into the habit of blogging. Flickr, the image and video hosting service run by Yahoo!, came to his aid. And thus, his trademark name, Obofili, which is the sound of ‘O’ in local Dhivehi language, was born. Shuau’s photos showcasing the natural beauty of the Maldives, its diverse culture and the lifestyle of its people came to signify the Maldives’ identity on the internet. Soon enough, Obofili, a subtle way of creating an ‘X’-shaped icon, became a household name, recognised by professional photographers and the public alike.
“It was a whole new dimension to showcase my work. The feedback I received from home and from abroad was very positive. That inspired me to explore further,” Shuau says.
With the exposure being received on the internet, Shuau was also getting offers to put his photography skills to use. In 2006, he was chosen as the official photographer of popular local rock band, FasyLive. It was another great opportunity for the budding photographer, who also had a keen interest in music and played music with friends. In designing the band’s album covers and posters, Shuau combined his photography and designing skills with his taste in music, creating artworks that signified the best of creativity.
Despite his early struggles mostly because he did not have his own equipment, Shuau never looked back. For every project that he got, he borrowed a camera and other equipment either from a friend or from a fellow photographer.
One such project that still reminds him of his roots happens to be the beginning of his career as it is now known. It was a time when his career as a photographer exclusively catering to weddings in resorts came to an abrupt end due to a management shift at his main client in mid 2015. With his one and only source of income cut off, he was on the look out for a reboot in his career when he was offered to do architectural and commercial photography for Filitheyo Island Resort and Medhufushi Island Resort, managed by AAA Resorts & Hotels, in late 2015
“I got that opportunity from my friend Moosa Shiyam, who happens to be a director at AAA company. I had just got back home from Sri Lanka after doing architectural photography of No.26 Colombo, a private luxury holiday villa built by a Maldivian family,” Shuau explains the beginning of his new career.
He is backed by several local and international awards and recognitions. From having had the honour to do branding work for big names such as the Maldives’ flagship carrier, Maldivian and the state-owned Waste Management Corporation Limited (WAMCO) to have received the Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award in Cultural Achievements conferred by the local branch of Junior Chamber International (JCI), he has also won the third place from the Amateur Category in CEDAW photography contest held in Asia-Pacific by UNIIFEM in 2009, and Best Logo Design award by Maldives Film Association and Sonee Hardware in 2006.
Shuau’s digital marketing skills have won him international recognition too. His Facebook page and Instagram account, followed by more than 19,000 people, are affiliated with the renowned Luxury World Traveler, whereas his work has been featured by DJI’s official account, F**ck It All and Go Travelling, and celebrities like Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers.
The self-taught photographer now specialises in architectural and commercial photography for the Maldives’ luxury tourism and hospitality industry. His growing portfolio of clients include renowned names in the industry, including AAA hotels & Resorts, Reveries Diving Village, Bandos Island Resort & Spa, Lily Beach Resort & Spa and Crown & Champa Resorts. And less than just three months into the year, Shuau is in high demand for several existing and upcoming properties in the Maldives.
“I couldn’t have reached where I’m today without the extraordinary support of my family and friends, and several others. Behind every photo that you see, there’s so much that you don’t see. For instance, dozens of resort staff make time from their already packed schedules to help me in my shoots,” he says.
Shuau is no ordinary photographer from the Maldives. He has a much broader vision from which he derives the idea for each and every photo that he shoots. That vision stems from his deep rooted love for nature, especially the natural beauty of the paradise islands of the Maldives. It is with this vision that he also hopes to one day showcase his work at local and international exhibitions, and achieve his grand plan of creating his very own product line that promotes the Maldives as the perfect holiday destination in the world.
White sandy beaches. Crystal clear waters. Lush green vegetation. These are all characteristics that are unique to the Maldives, and so are the defining features of Shuau’s photography. By perfecting his photography skills over the past 10 years, Shuau, through his work, has established himself as a true ambassador of the Maldives. As he puts it, “What better way to show the world the natural beauty we are blessed with than through photographs?”