Camera in hand, Mais is chasing his dreams in the Maldives

Youth Skills in South Asia

UNICEF Maldives
Mais smiles at the camera hold his DLSR camera wearing a red-plaid shirt. A kitchen is in the blurred background.
UNICEF Maldives/2019
27 September 2019

Malé, Maldives – In the Maldives, 18-year-old Mais spends his days capturing the world around him.

“I borrowed my cousin’s camera when I was 16,” Mais said. “I started taking it to parties and gatherings and realised I liked how it worked. Then I got really into it – I started watching videos on YouTube to learn more.”

Soon after, Mais began his A-Levels. Even so, he couldn’t get his mind off photography. Mais felt boxed in by the expectations around him; his classmates were hoping to become doctors, pilots or engineers. Mais didn’t feel a pull toward those fields, so he took a leap, leaving school to attend classes elsewhere.

“I didn’t feel like we all needed to be doctors and pilots. I felt like if you had a special thing you were drawn toward, you should take the jump.”

— Mais

When Mais left school, he enrolled in a graphic design course. He then became totally immersed in photography, working full-time and learning from those around him.

“One photographer was really helpful – he taught me a lot and helped me build my portfolio by taking me to wedding shoots,” Mais said. “There’s quite a large group of people in Male who are photographers, so there is a huge community of us right now. We are quite friendly with one another, but the competition is high. There is a huge demand but a larger supply, so the market has dropped a little.”

Despite the high number of photographers, Mais has gained popularity through Facebook, Instagram and other forms of social media. Mais is still working on his portfolio, but he’s happy with the choices he has made and the path he’s gone down.

“In the field of photography, you get to meet lots of new people and get to know their stories,” Mais said. “It’s really nice. When you are having a photo shoot, you get to learn about your subject and help them create memories.” 

Mais looks up confidently into the distance against a light blue background.
UNICEF Maldives/2019
Though developing a career in photography isn't without its challenges, Mais is happy to have work he is passionate about.

Mais’ favourite projects are resort photography and local weddings. He also enjoys food and nature photography. He takes photos of couples on their honeymoons and has worked in resorts around the Maldives, meeting a multitude of people from around the world in the process. Mais invests most of his earnings back in his craft, though he also helps his parents with rent and food.

“The most influential person in my life is my dad,” Mais said. “Ever since I was little, he has worked so hard. He is the only person managing this whole family – working alone and so hard just to provide for us.”

As the years have passed, Mais has grown a following in his community. Recently, he was even asked to teach photography at his former school. 

“I think that photography can be used for so much,” Mais said. “It can change things in my community and my country. One challenge being tackled through photography, for example, is that people throw waste into the seas. Lately, there have been a lot of campaigns to prevent that, and a lot of people have been taking photos and posting challenges on social media.”

Every now and again, Mais’ peers ask him if he will ever return to school and follow a more traditional career route. But Mais feels that he is free to chase his dreams – and even if he does study again, it would be with a focus on photography or cinematography.

“In the future, I’m hoping to become one of the top photographers of my generation in Male,” Mais said. “I want to be well-known in my community as a photographer – and maybe even internationally.”