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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Why An Artist Should Follow Their Instincts - Walid Azami

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Film Courage: When was the first time you picked up a camera? Walid Azami, Photographer: Okay so the first time I picked

up a camera professionally um I'm gonna backtrack just a little bit I work with

Madonna and I worked on a world tour and I befriended a friend of mine now a

really good friend Jamie King who was a creative director of the tour and like

so many other artists and he so just glazed over that real fast so he would

watch me come in and look at everything like everything I would like inspect

like crazy because I knew where I was I knew that I'm gonna learn so much from

this woman and I left that job and I left that job and out of the blue he

just texted me one day he's like hey well lead how are you let's go get

dinner I want to know what you're up to and so I went to dinner with him and I

drove up from Anaheim at that I think knows and whatever Anaheim our Fullerton

one of those two cities in Orange County at the time and I drove up to LA and I

met him for dinner but what he did not know is that I was dead broke broke

broke broke okay and this is pretty much right at the birth of the 2008 Great

Recession so I had quit being a music video directors assistant I had done

some PA jobs I was the worst PA you could ever hire on I mean the amount of

effort I put into not looking busy it was exhausting and I thought just do the

work you know but like trying to walk back and forth like look busy without

really doing this stuff so Jamie had called me he's like I want to know what

you're up to and he had a plan and he had a plan so

we went up and had dinner and another friend dog it was a very talented

director and joined us also and he asked me what are you doing now I'm broke at

this time I have a credit card and I probably have like three four hundred

dollars in my savings and that was it because you don't get paid much as an

assistant in Hollywood you know and so um and I had quit that to try to do some

behind the scenes video like MTV's making the video and I got one or two

jobs and then it just stopped but I didn't know that the

recession was born you know and so I had to stop for everyone but people hadn't

been honest about it yet that the something happened overnight right and

so I went to dinner with them and they were asking me like so what are you

doing and I and I would say well I want you and he's like shut up

and I thought what and I said and I'm so confused because I thought hey you're

asking me what I'm doing or what I want to do we're not telling you you're

telling me shut up and we did this a few times back and forth and he said don't

talk again until you're actually doing it because trying is lying and I don't

know if he actually said trying is lying or if I pick that up somewhere else but

but the meaning is the same trying his line so you're doing it or you're lying

to yourself but you're not lying to me right and he and he was really rough

with me so he broke me that night and he rebuilt me that night and he gave me one

of the best lessons I've ever learned in my life I actually practiced it without

really knowing what it was and he gave me this thing I'm gonna tell you right

now and he said no matter what country you're from no matter what faith you

practice or you don't practice gender Nationa doesn't matter what

socio-economic level one of the first things that any human being learns one

of the first words is no because we are told no so many times and he said it's

not the hearing no that's bad it's why we're telling people no no I don't want

people think you're a bad baby I don't people think I'm a bad mother I don't

want you know be a good little girl and be quiet right be a good boy don't show

your emotions be tough and so we are the only living creatures on this planet

that teach our children their instincts and so we're sending people

out there to conform and you have to to a certain extent not to be a freak in

society right but you were sending people out there and we're taking away

their greatest tool that fight or flight you know

and so he said if your instincts tell you to do something go do it I don't

care if you think you're gonna look like a fool if your instincts tell you don't

get in this car right now don't get in that car let everyone think you're crazy

but that is a direct phone call from you to God or Allah or energy or the

universe or whatever you want to think is bigger than you okay a greater power

and he said that's a direct phone call that you're getting at any moment so he

gave me examples he said how many times have you thought about somebody and then

they text you and you're like that's so weird I was thinking about you it's like

that's a connection how many times has a mother been at work and she's like

something is wrong something is wrong with my baby

and they call the babysitting like yeah there was a small accident you know he

or she is fine that mother knows there's a connection right and so he said the

the closest you'll ever be to God or again whatever I don't want people

getting lost on that part of it or whatever higher power

mother nature is when you listen to your instincts and he's like if you want to

photograph everybody and all green paint go do it something is telling you this

was gonna be good for your career now that night so that's what I mean by he

broke me and then he rebuilt me and he was setting it in an infrastructure that

I had already been using and how I I've acted in a lot in my earlier career my

school and everything that's okay and so he had set like the

the structure the infrastructure of like things that I a guideline and I had been

doing it but I didn't know this was my instincts okay and I went home thank God

he paid for dinner because I did not have money to even pay for my portions

and we had like drinks and dessert and appetizers I'm like oh my you know

that's expensive and he set me on my way and for like a week after I had this

weird feeling apparently was my instincts but this weird foreign feeling

that I should buy a camera but I didn't look when I tell you I did not even know

that a camera you can detach a lens from a camera like

a DSLR I guess mirrorless now whatever I did not even know you could do that I

didn't know what an ISO was I knew nothing nothing about a camera and so

but I had this feeling go buy a camera jobs are not coming in rent this coming

up and I only have a few hundred bucks and a credit card left and I sat on it

and I pushed it down and it just kept persisting kept persisting for I want to

say a week week and a half or something like that this feeling was there and it

would not go away and I don't know what made me but I decided to listen to my

instincts and I went into a camera shop and and I I'm such and so naive but I

went in and I said hi um I have $2,000 my credit card and I said I have $2,000

and I want to be a photographer and he sold me like 1998 dollars and whatever

there was nothing else left in the store to buy not even double-a batteries

because it was like it wasn't I mean they maxed out my card and I bought a

calf or TD which was not even a real it was like a prosumer camera and it was a

good camera but I'm just saying it wasn't like it was whatever it was like

a rebel today or something and I had I sat in my car and I remember the most

nauseous feeling and I thought what did I do

I even I know I can't even get a cash advance on my last credit card because

I'm max that sucker out I went home and just I was just I was a mess

and what a dramatic person but I was a mess you know and I thought man I don't

even know how to turn this thing on like no joke I have no idea how to turn this

thing I did not know what a single I didn't know a single thing okay but but

I start shooting things like leaves on a tree and a trail of ants and it was all

horrible pictures I got a call because I wanted to do behind-the-scenes video and

I got a call because of a friend of a friend

friend they're like hi his wallet there my good right and I was like yes what do

you sell exactly and they said hey somebody said you have

a video camera and at the time it was like the mini DV tapes of those they

were like hate you I heard you have a an HD camera and because everyone was using

the Panasonic DV X 100 which was like not fully HD I think whatever but I said

yes and I was so excited because I can buy food now okay and put food in the

fridge and they said uh sure needs somebody to come to the Kodak Theatre

right now and I'm packing everything in a bag throwing everything didn't even

have camera bags like I put them in a gym bag and stuff and I'm about to close

the door and that weird feeling in my gut said uh sure doesn't know why you're

hired it's his manager go get that stupid

camera you just bought to the still camera and I grabbed it and I ran in the

car and I remember I had a little blackberry

curve with the ball and I wrote f-stop means this ISO means this and you know

aperture means this whatever and and that was pretty much our shutter speed

and and and I I went there I went underground like two three levels I said

hi to Usher and I'm one of those people that when I'm nervous I look like I look

like I'm hiding a I'm telling you it's like this it just looks so bad you

know and I don't have a poker face whatsoever and I was just shooting stuff

and I decided to put the video camera on a tripod in the corner so now looks like

a security camera but usher has the footage and I wish I had it but of me

trying to figure this out and looking at my blackberry mic okay this button did

this and I'll take pictures and I didn't even know that I had a one gigabyte card

CF card so my compact flash was one and I was shooting on JPEG

small did not even know about these settings that they existed or that raw

was such a thing okay and I'm shooting and I'm shooting machine gun style

because I'm banking on quantity here not quality and pictures are like because

they had the the neon tubes pictures are coming out like all different colors but

it is not the color you want to see and Usher's coming out blurry because I'm

apparently on like like not even at 40 other thing I was like it was basically

it was I pretty much almost had the bull button you know like it was just

dragging the shutter everything was blurry and I'm ramping up the ISO as

high as possible I'm just hitting any button okay and not sure looks at me and

says what I've stopped are using and yo when I tell you I have mastered how to

die on the inside and keep a calm face I think I'm keeping a calm face I that gut

feeling said walk away yo I was on autopilot

I don't think that was valid that day okay I was on autopilot that gut feeling

said walk away and I remember was instant and said it's better that he

thinks you're crazy artists then someone who has no idea which was the truth okay

and actually now I think both are true but but I went upstairs I looked up

again because I wrote F stop but I had to look up I'm like what did this mean

you know with all these performers street performers and I'm like come on

Verizon you know like give me the reception everything and I went back

down in case he asked me and I wrote it down because I'd be like f-stop is this

I'm like I am using five point six you know but he didn't ask me again and I

just kept shooting I went home I went home and so down and I looked at all the

pictures and I did not even know that Photoshop exists I did not know

Photoshop was a thing the whole Institute of Adobe was not even in my in

my spectrum whatsoever okay so I decided to download all the

pictures open them up in the Julie inside the preview like what you

would open up a PDF in and so you have the option of bringing down contrast

exposure saturation hue and that's about it and I'm looking at these pictures I'm

like I don't know where uh sure is because everything is blurry I can't

tell you know anything and out of that I probably pulled under ten images that

you can identify it was Usher and that he was actually in focus on accident

okay and I pulled up about ten of him and this is me opening a picture one at

a time I'm like no next it was a disaster okay and then I it was like I

did not even know such a thing of lightroom existed so I would take him on

one folder copy him paste them into a second folder as I'm as I'm eliminating

which pictures I want you know and narrowing down and I found about 10 12

maybe nine I don't know but I opened them up in that preview panel and I

thought oh my god they're every color under the rainbow and I remember again

that that instinct was really in play and as like just turn it all black and

white and I turned the ID saturated all of them and I boosted the contrast a

little but they're already blurry sometimes and they were already high

high high ISO so super grainy and I sent them to Benny Medina who was ushered

manager at the time now he does JLo and I think JLo only and they called me

within like 30 minutes and they said well lead I don't know how you guessed

it but we sent the pictures to Usher and his whole new thing for the new album is

old Hollywood oh and he wants these black-and-white grainy imperfect images

and so we want to know would you be willing to work with them and be his

personal photographer oh my god and that like that to me is like that's the

perfect story in my career of following your instincts and just having faith in

it I mean I know that if people are listening to this now like he's crazy

like how am I gonna take that chance but that was

me just following instincts from the start and going there's there's this

weird feeling and I don't know what's going on I'm gonna follow it and every

single day I would learn one new thing on YouTube and I would type things like

what does exposure mean and I would study it because a history major you

know ask me about the Civil War I'll tell you everything about it you know

and that was and I would learn that one thing and then I was not allowed to go

to bed until I learned one new thing every single day so after a week it was

no big deal after a month it was a no big deal by the end of the second month

I started started adding up the things that I knew you know and so I sure would

say hey let's shoot over there I'm like no let's not because I hadn't even

reached that yet I was just on natural window light you

know and I was like no that's not let's just stand over here and do it and I was

just so whatever I learned the night before I would practice it on him the

next day and he's like you have such a fast I like you do so many things I

might do you don't even know like I'm on YouTube every night like learning things

and then coming downstairs and practicing it on you and I learned how

to photograph on tour with Usher did you create B I mean I'm seeing a lot of

parallels where we're just it's like this like serendipity and in your you're

at the right place the right time and you talked about you know your instincts

are very you know acute and did you have to be hyper aware when you were a child

on the lookout for things or because you seem to be so observant yeah I heard an

interview that you didn't you said you could tell the light package maybe

someone was using by the light reflection in the eyes of the subject so

and I see this thing in you where you seem so detail-oriented did you have to

be hyper do you think that's like this thing that you adopted nobody has ever

asked me that before but I don't know if you saw the look on my face has changed

I think in times I had to okay yeah I think there are times I have to be very

aware and and not anything like oh my god let me just correct that real fast

it was not like what the viewers may think in any kind of

abuse it was just I was a we were I was a war child you know and so in

Afghanistan I remember the invasion of the USSR and my brother was born with

you know congenital heart disease or heart failure and so ever like it was

just her moil constant so you couldn't go outside because there were tanks and

every winter the doctor would tell my mom your son my brother may pass he's

not gonna make it he's not gonna make it past five or eight years old or

something so it was chaos and I remember many many times in my childhood just

kind of not getting I mean how do you I mean like you have a child that suppose

he's gonna die and you have the Soviet Union that just invaded your nation so

like paying attention to little Waleed it's not top priority you know what I

mean so there was a lot of moments that I remember just being very observant and

just looking and feeling the temperature of the room and knowing when to talk and

reading people's faces because things would happen outside like somebody would

be dragged off to jail or murdered because of the war and so I do remember

now really looking at people's faces huh just yeah there you go that's a new

memory but yeah interesting and so that may be which was was was not a positive

thing stemmed into now you being able to pick up little nuances and maybe maybe

yeah maybe I mean I'm not versed enough to know like about the study of it but I

think that I've always been very detail-oriented and yeah yeah I've

mastered kind of being a fly on the wall and I guess it just came naturally

because just growing up that way


The Description of Why An Artist Should Follow Their Instincts - Walid Azami