Dilshad Corleone

Today’s smartphone functionality continuously exceeds our imagination by the minute; and as a result, it’s only natural to see a juxtaposition between the elements of art and technology following suit. This week’s Urban Beardsman is not only a trailblazer in the way photography is conceptualized and received, but wants everyone to know you can do it too—simply by disregarding the rules that it’s not about the device you use, but how you use it. Dilshad Corleone’s smartphone photography work (some examples at the bottom of the page) has been featured internationally in over thirty-two exhibits and counting; from New York to Barcelona, (with mass recognition from multiple media and photography magazines), proving he’s in a lane of his own—with just two or three extra batteries and an iPhone.

Currently residing in London by way of Italy, Corleone graciously open the door to his home, (literally) via Facetime and takes a moment to give me a tour of his flat. He’s an exceptionally jovial, down-to-earth fellow who is more than happy to chat—about anything. He’s extremely passionate about his craft, and after sharing a few of his award winning photography pieces; he begins to explain how it all got started.

Corleone caught the shutter bug several years ago after snapping a few iPhone shots of his surrounding environment and posting them to his Instagram and Flickr pages. Never owning a film camera, he decided to seek out an iphoneography class offered nearby in London. The assignments further inspired him to go out for hours; shooting everything from people on the street to architectural design. He states, “I always have my eye on something, but I have to feel like I’m the middle of an emotional earthquake—like you feel a thousand butterflies—you stop breathing—and then, I take my iPhone out. I love having this device in my pocket. I’ll shoot something, put it in an app or two to edit, and literally in 10-15 minutes I can share it with the world—it’s just amazing in that sense. Anyone can do it, and that’s the message I want to put out there—that’s the beauty of it.”

Corleone’s work has drawn so much recognition; it’s opened doors for him to receive press passes to shoot a range of various events, but his presence is not always well received at first. He mentions a boxing match he was hired to shoot where other photographers initially frowned upon him for being in the area. After the match when he revealed his photos, he recalls the laughing behind his back had stopped—completely shocking them with the images he took. One of the photos from the match ended up winning several prizes, landing his work in even more exhibits across the globe.

Although Corleone has proven he can illustrate his work at the same caliber of those who use traditional film cameras, he says he still witnesses debates on whether his work is legitimate in the photography world. He addresses it simply by chalking it up to natural progression. “Photography to me is a quest to immortality. Art in general: literature, painting, etc. has always been a quest for immortality. You’re trying to get a moment in time locked for people in the future; for when you’re not there to look at it. You can do it with a 35mm, you can do it with a digital, a massive Canon camera—or you can do it with an iPhone. It’s not the device, but what you photograph and how you do it with your own eye. I’m just capturing what I see with my own style,” he says.

Corleone is so dedicated to getting his shots, he nearly risks his life for it. He’ll venture out in the wee hours of the night and explore cities and neighborhoods people are warned not to go—such as Naples, Italy. He recalls a time where he was nearly knifed by someone, sharing, “as soon as I got to the station this guy opens his jacket revealing all these phones and asks me if I want to buy one. I notice he had a very distinct, “well-lived” look to his face, so I instantly knew I wanted to get a couple shots of him. I followed him and positioned myself in a building waiting for him to come around, but he knew right away what I was doing and began shouting some pretty extreme obscenities at me. As I tried to get away he picked up a brick from the floor and threw it right at me! I did a matrix-kind-of-move and he barely missed. He then went in his pocket and pulled a knife out, running straight for me. I started running, but at one point—I had this moment where I REALLY wanted to stop and take a picture of this guy running at me with a knife! Instead I continued to run. Naples was quite an experience, and I really enjoyed it.“

Being that Corleone is not afraid to explore dangerous ground at night, he shares his beard has come in handy—at least with putting him a bit at ease, revealing, “I feel lucky I have this beard. I’m a bit of a tall guy, but it makes me even that more confident that people won’t mess with me. However, I love the contrast if I’m randomly talking to an elderly woman for example; they’ll look at me really strange at first, but after talking will say, ‘you’re actually a nice person!’ I like to remind people the beard exudes confidence but you have to respect it. If you behave properly, it will change how people think of you. It’s beautiful when you talk to someone and they realize there’s a real nice person behind the beard.

Corleone’s not shy when it comes to sharing his personal beard care regimen. Nor is he ashamed to admit he’s been occasionally spotted in a nightclub restroom applying some Four Vices Beard Oil during a night out. He often keeps a comb and brush handy, explaining, “The comb teases your beard and the brush comes along and says ‘mate, I’m the boss.’ So I use both. Aside from applying in the morning before work, the beard oil also just sets the mood for the night.”

As he continues to shake up the photography world, you can expect to see much more of Corleone’s amazing work ahead. He juggles an insanely busy schedule, holds down a nine-to-five, but somehow manages to work in his photography and social life in-between. His photography pieces continue to gain awareness, including a recent corporate partnership with him on contributing an inspirational YouTube video for their brand’s photography campaign.

As long as Corleone is able to continue capturing his interpretation of beauty, he’s happy with his success. “I really want to go to Pakistan, (which is also very dangerous at the moment), but I want to take pictures of the daily life there and try to capture happiness. Everyone goes there and captures the disasters and sadness, but I want to show that even in sadness there is happiness. You need to value the beauty of every place—everyone has beauty.”

One more reason to appreciate talent in any medium, Corleone, does an excellent job of reminding us that regardless of the filter, lighting, or saturation, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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