Ali Islam comes into focus

Whenever people needed an artist, they looked to Sixth Former Ali Islam. 

“Ever since I can remember, people looked at me when something needed to be drawn in class,” Islam said. “If a teacher brings up like, ‘This is a drawing aspect,’ now everybody wants to be in my group.”

Islam’s been making art for as long as he can remember, drawing incessantly, making comic books, and, for most of high school, focusing on photography.

“I realized that I was good at [art] at a young age, so I just kept doing it because I like doing things that I’m good at,” Islam said.

Although Islam says the comic books he made growing up were about “dumb stuff” like people going to the moon and fighting other people, the effort he put into them turned him into an artist.

“I used to draw all the time. Teachers used to get mad at me for not paying attention in class and just sketching some dumb stuff. It would be a thing where teachers would know my paper if I didn’t write my name because I had a sketch on it,” Islam said.

Islam first became interested in photography after seeing his sister’s photographic work.

“I thought [her work] was impossible to grasp and very far ahead of me,” Islam said.

“I just have an idea in my mind, and I try to express that through the photos.”

Ali islam ’23

Around December of his Fourth Form year, he started taking pictures with his friends. He found that photography was almost infinitely interesting to him.

“I feel like photography, you can’t really get bored of it because you take thousands of pictures in these photoshoots,” Islam said. “I can also put my image to life on paper, but I feel like I’m better at doing it with a camera.”

Islam became fully captivated by the art of photography after doing his first photo shoot over the summer before his junior year. 

“It was the first thing I did, first artistic photo shoot that I did, and it kind of made me realize I could do a lot more with it since I had the camera. Since then I’ve done photoshoots and whatnot, some I’ve submitted to Pegasus,” Islam said.

The photoshoots are all about taking an idea of Islam’s and turning that into a physical, photographable reality.

“I just have an idea in my mind, and I try to express that through the photos,” Islam said. “And I get whatever props, whatever location I need for it, and then I try to set it up when I’m free.”

While Islam used to fill his free moments by drawing, he now takes photos whenever he can.

“It’s like I bring [my camera] around everywhere. I have it in my bookbag now. I can just quickly take it out and then take a photo of something that’s in a really good quality that I can edit.”

“I just want to make something that I think looks cool.”

Ali islam ’23

Islam posts his photos on Instagram under the username @khxbeer, and he has used Instagram to widen his scope. Beginning this school year, Islam has started taking photos of people other than his friends. He has reached out to models from around the area to collaborate. 

He likes doing this because of “one: exposure, because some of [the models] are a little known in a different audience, and two: especially getting other creatives, you can get a new perspective.”

Islam likes doing photoshoots, as they allow him to sculpt the entire atmosphere of a photo.

“[Taking photos of people] makes me more proud of what I did because I set it up that way, not just saw a beautiful landscape and took a picture in a really nice camera and it turned out to be a really nice photo,” Islam said.

In a world that has its fair share of pretentious art, Islam’s photography captures the energy of young people in a sincere way. 

Above all, Islam’s photographs look cool.

“Mr. Fox has definitely helped me with my creative direction at times.”

Ali Islam ’23

“I just want to make something that I think looks cool. Most of the time, it’s nothing more than that. Sometimes I try to branch out and have a theme based on the photos. With some of my favorite photos, there’s a message behind it. But a lot of times I just take photos because I think they look good,” Islam said.

In one photo, Islam holds a ribbon stretching from the lens of the camera to the model. Little things like that can elevate the photos to a whole new level.

“It’s just little stuff like that significantly changes the photo shoot.”

Islam plans to minor in photography in college so he can learn more about the mechanics of photography—the cameras, the lenses, the angles, etc. While he hasn’t taken a photography class at school, he has been nurtured by the art department here.

“Mr. Fox has definitely helped me with my creative direction at times,” Islam said. “I would come to him and present him with what I’m doing, and he would give his advice and whatnot and that was very helpful.”

Author: Joey Kauffman '23

Joey Kauffman is an Editor-In-Chief for The Index for the 2022-23 school year. He previously served as a Managing Editor, where he won a Gold Key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for his opinion piece “Start Language Learning in Lower School.” His review of the movie "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" also earned him second place in the Pennsylvania Press Club Annual High School Journalism Contest. In May of 2023, Joey’s features piece, “Controversy swirls around fan section nickname” won second place in the National Federation of Press Women High School Journalism Contest after winning the Pennsylvania competition.