Noam Galai’s story is a wild one, and quite simply the most unique among any active photographer. How can I make such a blanket statement? Because in addition to being a talented photographer, Noam’s face has been stolen thousands of times around the world. His “Stolen Scream,” a photo of himself he took years ago, is plastered on CD covers, t-shirts and graffitied on walls. It’s been used to support established rule and rouse rebellion. It’s be copied, reprinted and reused so many times, not even Noam knows every case of its theft. Its been the center of case studies and even been printed in text books for college students. It’s a great story, but it doesn’t speak to what Noam has done with his life since.
But this isn’t about Noam’s stolen self portrait. For once, I wanted the story of his skill with the camera to be the focus. Noam is perhaps one of the most versatile photographers I know, embracing different styles and utilizing each like a craftsman handles the many tools in his toolbox. “Unlike many other photographers, I don’t photograph with one specific look or style. I shoot in the style that makes sense for each specific shoot. Of course it’s all my creative direction, but it’s very broad,” Noam told me. “It could be a great thing, and could be a bad thing. It’s probably both. My favorite things to shoot are music, sports and portraits. Again, kind of broad. But I don’t like limiting myself just because it’s recommended to specialize in something. I’m a big sports fan, so I love shooting it. I’m a big music and pop culture person, so I love shooting it. And I like capturing moments in life, and documenting people in different stages of their lives. So portraiture is also something I love to do. All these passions lead me to shoot in the entertainment industry, which I have followed for many years.”
Noam has loved what photography has brought to life from a very early age. “As a kid I always liked documenting family events and school trips with my cheap plastic film camera (or a disposable camera).” But just because he liked to take photos doesn’t mean he had an intention to pursue it in a technical sense. For him, it was about the result. “I had no interest in photography and I had no idea what are all the different settings and terms meant. I shot for sake of documenting. I captured photos sot hat I could later look at them and enjoy the memories.”
But that wouldn’t last forever. “Around the year 2000, I got my first SLR camera and in 2004 I started playing with the different settings and tried to learn what they did. That year the biggest basketball team in Israel gave me a chance and let me shoot for them from the stands. Later that year I moved to NYC, switched to my first DSLR, and kept shooting sports (NBA, WNBA, Euroleague) and slowly got in to the music industry. I never had a real formal training, and never went to college/school. I learned everything by trying, by playing with the settings and shooting a lot. I still learn every day.”
Noam derives his inspiration to create from what many would consider an unconventional source. “It may sound weird, but photographers don’t inspire me. Also great images don’t inspire me. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing great photography work and seeing how awesome photographers around the world create, but it doesn’t inspire me for my own work. What Inspires me is mostly music and sports. Listening to great music, or watching music videos is probably my number one form of inspiration. I get most of my ideas from listening to music, and I also try to handle myself as a photographer in ways that musicians handle themselves.”
Noam’s Favorite Gear
Noam’s Advice to Emerging Photographers
“Success is not instant. It takes time, and you should understand that, and invest the time. It won’t happen in two months, or even one year. Real success takes time to achieve, so don’t rush things. Take the time and perfect your craft.”
“Try different things, and decide what you like, and what you’re good at. Focus on those things. Recently I heard two quotes from the sports world that I feel like are very true for us photographers: ‘Winners focus on winning, Losers focus on winners” and “Everyone wants to be successful until they see what it takes.’ Focus on perfecting your own work and be your best, don’t look to the sides and start comparing yourself to other photographers. And be ready to pay the price to get to the top. It will take time and a lot of effort. It may be ugly and painful, but also joyful. ”
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