Paul Tupman is a multifaceted young man who is reaching for the stars in all areas of his life. His creative talent has exploded onto the RB pages and left a huge smile on his face and him perfecting his new “Happy Dance” techniques which “Lionel Richie” would be proud of. He’s taken some time out of his busy schedule and from dancing on the ceiling to answer some questions.

Tell us a little about your background and what led you to your current job in Riyadh?
Well, it certainly wasn’t a love for culture shocks, 50 degree heat and dust that led me here! I realised early on that I was never going to be a rocket scientist, so decided to follow my love for art. A-Levels out of the way I headed for Art college, specialising mainly in sculptural furniture. I definitely get a buzz from crafting furniture from old wood and a chainsaw. I then put a BA in Furniture Design under my belt and fine tuned my skills.

The real world sucked me in quickly and I began my initial 3 years as an Interior Designer working on custom made furniture for residential and commercial projects and picking up all the skills required to be an interior architect. I then decided to expand my horizons and landed a job in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in July 2001. My excitement carried me through as I awaited my visa, but as September 11th 2001 came and went, other thoughts filled my head. My family and friends were concerned but I was adamant that my decision was the right move, so a month later on October 11th I touched down on foreign soil and began my new desert life.

Six years later and I’m still emptying the sand from my shoes at the end of my working day so it can’t all be that bad! As Senior Designer I now design buildings, interiors and furniture for exclusive clients here in Riyadh and across the world. My keen eye for detail has made me a true perfectionist in all that I do, and this spills over into my photography. Believe me when I say, if there is a wrong detail on a drawing or a horizon line that isn’t straight then I will spot it!

Who or what gave you the most impetus for your photography techniques and skills?
During my time at university I briefly studied the designer Ettore Sottsass. I always remember reading how he would go about his everyday life taking pictures of anything and everything to build up his own personal visual library. This really struck a chord with me and became something I tried to emulate myself. I’m a real people watcher, not in a perverted way, I hasten to add (ha-ha!) but there is something that can become very captivating when watching people and trying to capture that magic moment.

As much as I love taking a good landscape shot, for me there is nothing better than capturing a moment that really pulls you in, tells a story and leaves your emotions running on a high. I’m constantly inspired by everything and everyone around me and will never be too far from my camera.

What is it like living in Riyadh?
Oh, I could go on and on… and you wouldn’t believe half of the stuff! Life in Riyadh isn’t your average every day run of the mill life. Strict Islamic laws impose certain rules on my way of being. I’m not saying it is all bad, as I wouldn’t still be here after 6 years, but put it this way, if you were to talk too much about beer, bacon and boobs then you might find yourself down Chop Chop Square! And yes, Chop Chop Square really does exist! Up until a year ago, photography was actually prohibited in the Kingdom which greatly restricted budding photographers! It’s definitely a conservative country in cultural conflict with the west, with some who are still adverse to picture taking. I found this out first hand not so long ago. It was a very scary situation which saw me outwitting and outrunning a Bedouin guy who definitely took a disliking to me, screaming many obscenities that I cant repeat here… well I would if I could have understood him! He actually demanded my camera then hurled a large rock at me as I high tailed it down the road to my car. Well, I’m still here to tell the tale, so it’s a good job I’m a fast runner and that it was only a rock he was carrying!

Do you have any other hobbies?
Yes. I’m also an active triathlete, which you might find odd in the desert, but we have a very active club with many members competing in Ironman all over the world. For those of you who don’t know what Ironman is, let me explain. It’s a worldwide event that challenges competitors to compete in an event consisting of swimming, cycling and running over distances that can leave you literally sucking on the hot Riyadh air! I’m a member of the committee and help with producing logos, t-shirts and a seasonal magazine which of course includes my handiwork. Sometimes I take a “rest day,” grab my camera instead of my bike and capture some of those great race moments. This has led to a regular spot in the sports pages of the local Arab News.

Where do your photographic opportunities come from?
I have a very busy working schedule with long days for 5.5 days every week. Obviously this leaves very little time for capturing those special moments, but I cram in as much as I can in my free time. A lot of my work comes from my travels outside the Kingdom but I also try to get to the desert as often as possible. The first love of my life, Claire is very understanding of my passions, as she too is a talented photographer also to be found here on RB… (Valli says…“go there Claire”…) She is a big inspiration for me, which is reflected in my portfolio. We are actually off on our travels next month again in search of a new stock pile of images… which I’ll definitely share with the RB community. There are some stunning locations that will “knock your socks off” out here if you’re willing to drive off road for several hours and put up with the dust! I could do that forever! Have a look at what I mean:

Tell us about your Redbubble experience.
I first joined Redbubble last August… the very next day, the site was blocked by the Saudi Government! That’s another thing about this country – Internet Censorship! Once again their conservatism leads to the blockage of Internet obscenities. On one hand that’s perfectly understandable but sometimes photography sites suffer when falling into the above category…just a bit too much flesh on show and it’s blocked! After much letter writing to the government sensors I managed to convince them of RB’s innocence (Valli thinks that’s a definitely plug peeps…smile) and 2 months later I was back online. A future negotiator in the works, I think… either that or they got sick of my whining!

Anyway, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here at RB and am trying to get more involved in this great community through viewing the immense talent on display as well as making fantastic friends who are always ready to offer help and advice. I’m truly inspired and am no longer a “happy snapper” but someone who is striving to develop my personal style. When I read comments such as “the treatment is so Trademark Tupman” then believe me when I say you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for days!

What inspires you when taking photographs?
I’ve really drawn on everything I’ve seen and grown to love and pulled it together to what I’m doing now… a love of a dark edgy emotion, strong sepia tones and high contrasts coming from my love of classic cinematography and film posters. Mix in my love of architecture and keen eye; some new found developing techniques and perhaps even my wry sense of humour and there you have it… a portfolio, Tuppers style!

Have you ever won any awards for your photos/writing or interior architectural work?
Well, I have exhibited as a furniture designer and had interior work featured in magazines. I’ve also had some great success since joining RB… a Homepage feature the same day you asked me Valli to do this interview…a win in Witheringmoons Secret Place Competition with “Secrets Unfurled”, a collaboration with the talented writer, “Empress” and a second win in the Challenge Café with “Dreaming of Turkey This Christmas” Throw in a runners up placing and other shortlists in the Café, including some writing then you could say that my “Happy Dance” is getting well used and well sought after to liven the streets of Riyadh!

In a country where photography is still frowned upon, I’ve also recently been interviewed on the radio about my work here on Redbubble which led to my first photo shoot for my friends Merridy and Cyrus who were expecting their first baby. We headed for the desert which gave them pregnancy shots a little different to the norm and something different for the locals to watch… it’s not every day that they get to see a heavily pregnant woman, with a little more flesh on show than normal, strutting her stuff at the top of a sand dune!

Can you give any advice to photography newcomers trying to promote themselves?
My advice is to believe that you are the next best thing since sliced bread. If you don’t believe that then the chances are nobody else will! Then just be inspired!

Well I think peeps that Paul is definitely a name to watch here on RB! Good luck with all your ventures in the future! Here’s looking at ya!

Paul’s Interior and Furniture Design work can also be viewed here or follow any of the other links on his profile page.

Journal Comments

  • JustSixties
  • Valli  aka Frankiesgirl
  • Paul Tupman
  • Valli  aka Frankiesgirl
  • karenanderson
  • Valli  aka Frankiesgirl
  • robyn delorme
  • Valli  aka Frankiesgirl