RISING STAR PHOTOGRAPHER
From being homeless in Watford, Abul Shah is now an award-winning photographer, securing a £5,000 grant from Watford Borough Council’s Cultural Support and Development Grant. Abul is one to watch - a rising star. Read about his extraordinary business journey.
Abul Shah took a fascinating path on his journey to becoming one of Watford’s most in-demand photographers. Struggling with a difficult family situation, he spent a few years in Canada before returning to the UK, where he decided he wanted to follow his dreams and do something for himself for the first time.
Arriving back in Watford, Abul joined the Watford Camera Club. Eventually, he decided to turn his hobby into a way of life. “I’ve always been creative,” he says, “but I never thought I could make money from my art.” By the end of the first year he could no longer afford his rent, and reached a crossroads. Was it time to pull back and put photography on the back burner?
Losing his flat, Abul became homeless, and spent almost a year living at the Watford YMCA.
Abul Shah - Watford's award-winning photographer
Eventually, he began making progress. “It reached the point where I was shooting for Esquire and Harpers Bazaar, photographing celebrities in expensive clothes, and none of them knew I was homeless."
Around the same time, he was taking jobs as a wedding photographer. People started hearing about his work, and he eventually regained enough of an income to leave the YMCA in 2017.
The cancellation of weddings over the pandemic was a challenge, but during the pandemic, he heard about the Watford Cultural Support and Development Grant. This was a funding and support initiative funded by Watford Borough Council and administered by Watford Palace Theatre. This first round of grant funding enabled 45 grant applicants to benefit from advice and signposting to additional support and 22 applicants to benefit from grant funding.
After a quick application process, Abul was awarded a grant of £5000. He spent the money on his first laptop, allowing him to edit his photographs while travelling. "I do all my work on here; the grant was game-changing for me.”
Abul has big plans. As well as launching his rebranded website, he hopes to start running classes with aspiring photographers in the US. Meanwhile, plaudits keep rolling in. He was a finalist for English wedding photographer of the year, earning him a few spots in Vogue magazine.
"I love what I do," he says. "It doesn’t feel like a job.”
For information on grants and business support available to Watford businesses, click here.