Frame, Focus, Capture
Published on 6 July 2021
From being one of the only photographers to have work featured on a Scottish banknote to becoming a sell-out author, Shahbaz Majeed has come a long way from his undergraduate days in the Queen Mother Building computing labs.
Shahbaz’s day job is at the University of Dundee as Web Development Manager, but his hobby has seen him achieve enormous success on an international scale. It started in 2007, when he saw an advert from a local photographic society and decided to go along to the society and give photography a go.
Mainly taking pictures around Dundee itself, the commercial aspect came when his work started to be bought by local organisations. Twelve months later, he won a national award for a picture he had taken in Dundee which has since been used to promote the city.
While more images started to get noticed, more awards and recognition followed. Shahbaz won more awards in 2011 as well as national-level awards in 2013. Since then, he started to focus more on aerial photography.
Shahbaz laughed, “Drones are a big thing now, but I didn’t use drones at the time. I hung out of helicopters instead because it’s more fun! Joking aside - there is more freedom with a helicopter as you can only go a certain height with a drone.”
It was this venture into the world of aerial photography that led to Shahbaz’s huge success in recent years, especially when he discovered that one of his photographs was going to be used for ten million new polymer banknotes that were to be put in circulation. An aerial image he had taken of the Forth Rail Bridge just outside of Edinburgh had been discovered and a national bank wished to use the image for their new £5 polymer notes. This came as a huge surprise, especially as he first heard of this while reading an announcement from the Chief Executive of Clydesdale Bank in the newspaper.
“Everyone thought I was joking at first! People were even sending me notes in the post asking me to sign them, it was bizarre!”
In 2017 Shahbaz did an updated version of the shoot as the new Forth bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, prepared to open. Following this shoot, Shahbaz then got another request to use the updated photos for another bank note – this time the £20 Bank of Scotland polymer.
Shahbaz’s wins didn’t stop there. In 2017, he became a published author with his book ‘Scotland in Photographs’ which was released with great publicity and success. The book features collections of his photographs and their locations. It was very successful, more so than he imagined.
“Photography is very subjective. For every ten people that like it, there will be people who dislike it, so it was all about showcasing Dundee and Scotland. I wanted to have someone with a local connection write the foreword and thought who better than Brian Cox who was a past Rector of the University of Dundee.”
Following the success of the first book, Shahbaz released a second. The new offering was called ‘Scotland Revealed’ and the idea was similar but featuring different locations around Scotland. The book was released in April 2020 and has gone on to sell-out many times on Amazon. One thing Shahbaz loves in particular about his book is that he was contacted many times by people who wanted to know how to travel to the locations he photographed
“One individual got in touch saying that, in two years, he had managed to tick off every location in the book! People want to visit all these places, so it is excellent. Tourists coming to Scotland have been using it to plan their trips– getting in touch and asking how to get to the various locations.”
From his beginnings as an Applied Computing student at the University of Dundee, Shahbaz‘s banknotes will eventually be displayed in museums and archives and will remain popular with note collectors in years to come. It just goes to show what can come from a hobby.
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