Ajay Mittal - Traveler and Explorer

Dubai based photographer

Ajay Mittal is the Superman/Clark Kent of photography: Likable lawyer by day, and adventurous artist by night.

Mittal was born and raised in the “leafy town” of Surrey, England. His upbringing involved muddy sports grounds, commuting on trains and a rigid education. The latter, he says, lead him in pursuit of a legal career.

Mittal now works as a lawyer by day at a power company based in the UAE, Dubai.

However, his day job does not define him.

Mittal prefers to be known to the world as a traveler and explorer.

“What I really am is a traveler and an explorer; but not an explorer in the orthodox sense, an explorer of people, stories and moments. Photography is my outlet for this. It’s my outlet to indulge in creativity, an element that is lacking when turning those cogs in the corporate machine that myself and many others here are stuck in. Otherwise, I am a son of an Indian and a Trinidadian, so I love spicy food; I’m the youngest of two brothers, so I guess I’m a bit spoilt; and since my move to the region I’ve worked and resided in Istanbul, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai so I’m somewhat nomadic and you could say that I like change.”

His style is poetic, a lot like Rumi. If one had to choose a line from his prose to describe the beauty that Mittal’s photographs capture it would be: “I can't stop pointing to the beauty. Every moment and place says, 'Put this design in your carpet!'".

For Mittal, Rumi uses words that describe the sense of exhilaration that takes over when he has the opportunity to capture something that amazes him.

“In my eyes, the world is a complete set of these designs, interconnected with every part of every sea and land containing a unique piece. When I find one that I want to keep, my camera becomes the rug for which such design can be sewn into.

The image below was one of the first that I took, whilst still learning photography (although I should add that I am always learning). Following a long day out in the heat on safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania and a bumpy journey to Tarangire National Park, my next abode for the night was a modest campsite on the outskirts of the park. As the night drew closer in my campsite, wild dogs began to roam the streets, as if checking in for their night duties. A photographer always knows where the sun is, and at this moment my instinct spoke to me. That the sun would set beyond the hills and that a short walk up a rugged and desolate road leading to would be spectacular sunset from a perfect vantage point. Both my exhaustion from the long journey and the threat of the howls from the wild dogs were ignored and courage was fueled by the love of the moment, the extraordinary place and ultimately the prospect of putting this design in my carpet.”

Mittal is passionate about shooting landscapes. This occurred as a result of his travels.

This was just the start of his photographic journey and he is now gaining popularity as a specialist in travel, hotels, landscape, portraiture, wedding and fashion photography.

He loves each category and says that his love for shooting is “not defined by the subject, but by the moment and my ability to tell my side of the story”.

Mittal only recently found his photographic calling. He says that the discovery of photography is the result of a few good influences.

“My father, now seventy-two years of age, was an enthusiast from a young age, spending many hours in dark rooms. My parents often took us on family tips abroad to help us appreciate the wider world, and on such trips, decent cameras were often rented. These subconscious influences surely played a part, although at that time I was uninterested, more distracted by football and video games perhaps! More recently and crucially, I met my now fiancée who inspired me to travel and on these trips it was criminal not capture these incredible places and to save such amazing memories in the best way possible (like most travelers). From here though, I cannot describe what happened. My desire and drive to learn and to develop the basic skill that I had snowballed. Well, perhaps an avalanche is a more apt analogy! Every spare moment since has been dedicated to learning the art and applying it under any concept that I created and could feasibly construct. Two years on and I can proudly say that I can now shoot at a professional standard!”

As previously mentioned, Mittal juggles two lives: corporate and freelance. Having one job is crazy enough in the fast paced cosmopolitan metropolis of Dubai, but Mittal manages most successfully. 

“Let’s just say that prior to living two lives, I never considered organisation to be a particularly strong attribute of mine, on the contrary in fact! Now, with the pressure of knowing that the only way to achieve what I want to achieve is to manage my workloads effectively, I have changed my ways and now live my life through Post-it notes, and other mediums for list making! I am also surprisingly efficient in my photography, making the best use of every moment. I suppose this is me in survival mode – comply with what is required or fail and lose the ability to do what I love to do.

In terms of how photography has made me see law, or vice versa, I think it’s all about direction and goals. My full-time legal work can be stressful and mundane but the understanding that it will help me achieve my photography dreams certainly makes it a lot easier.”

Mittal is a young and dynamic professional and is making a name for himself in the region. He was recently featured in the Islamic Fashion and Design Council Cover magazine and works with a range of bloggers, designers and key influencers in the region. He acknowledges the restrictions one faces in the region in terms of traveling wherever one would want to go or shooting whatever one wants to shoot. But, he also appreciates that the UAE is doing its part to invest in the arts. This includes film festivals, art exhibitions, fashion shows, and photography competitions.