When weddings were called off during the pandemic, videographer Tufail Uddin and photographer Mohtashim Mahin of Thru the Lens Production lost their main source of income. They had to find other ways to make money by making a financial leap to follow their dreams.
Tufail Uddin grew up in Detroit. Like many children raised by immigrant parents, he was encouraged to grow up and have a good 9 to 5 office job. But he had other plans.
“I’m a videographer, content creator and wedding filmmaker, ”says Uddin.
When Uddin lost his first office job, his wife Anjum bought him a camera.
“At the beginning of the year, I was at this 9 to 5 job where I saw neither happiness nor goal, ”he recalls.
Uddin started watching YouTube tutorials to learn more about photography. He worked as a freelance for a while and practiced taking photos for small events in order to create a portfolio. In 2018, he met Mohtashim Mahin while he was a freelance videographer.
Mahin was born in Bangladesh and moved to we when he was 18. He took up photography as a hobby while figuring out what to do between going to college and doing odd jobs.
“I started going to different people’s weddings and started taking pictures of my loved ones, ”Mahin explains. “This is how I started.”
Mahin says the talent was not enough to go far in the industry. He realized that people were hiring photographers and videographers as part of a package, which sparked an idea: join forces with Uddin.
“I contacted him in 2018 and we met at Tim Hortons… ”, recalls Mahin. “I took everything with me, all my camera and everything and he said, ‘Okay brother, let me think and I’ll answer you.'”
Uddin said he wasn’t sure if he was going to take the plunge. A few months passed and their paths crossed again as they worked for the Bangladeshi Mural Project, a crowdfunded mural honoring Bangladeshi heritage in America on display at the Hamtramck-Detroit border.
This time Uddin said yes.
Start a business
They became a team in December 2019. Then in 2020, their entire operation came to a halt due to the pandemic.
Uddin says this sudden change linked to the pandemic has caused him to rethink his priorities both as a business owner and as a new father. Her son was only a few weeks old when Michigan went into custody.
“My income and the financial well-being of my family depend on the world, right? Uddin said. “As if the pandemic hadn’t happened, and I could have continued to work.”
Uddin wanted to take one more step towards pursuing his dreams by opening a studio to work outside the home and be more present at home. He says his wife Anjum gave him the reassurance he needed.
Creative jobs are often not supported in the South Asian community, but rather seen as a hobby. Uddin says his wife helped him overcome these obstacles and believe in himself.
“Just his listening is good enough for me to go out and do what I need to do, ”he says.
Things started to improve in 2021. In August, Uddin and Mahin found a space to rent in Warren, near the Bangladeshi community, one of their biggest customer bases.
“We really wanted this space mainly for us to be creative, to make this dream more serious of becoming more of a photographer and a videographer and exploring different avenues and bringing in other creators, ”Uddin said.
One of the things they explored was doing ads. Yasmeen Ahmed is the owner of Adhor, a gift wrapping company. Uddin helped create a video for his online business. It has been widely shared.
“I met people through the video so I thought it was really cool – the exposure she got, ”says Ahmed.
Ahmed met Uddin and Mahin in 2018 during the Bangladeshi mural project. She says she is proud of them for following their dreams.
“I just feel like they were very brave, very brave to go ahead and open this studio during a pandemic. It shows how passionate they are about their work, ”she says.
Listen: Thru the Lens Production makes room for local creatives in their brick and mortar studio.
From freelancers to Small Business Hub
Mahin says he was nervous about making a big financial leap, especially being a supplier for his family, like Uddin, but the money from the events they organize helps cover their bills.
Uddin says he hopes the studio becomes a safe space for businesses to come together to create content or connect people to resources.
“We want to be a one-stop-shop or at least help you find the right person to help you, ”Uddin said.
In October TTL The production hosted a fall festival to bring small businesses online into a physical space.
“It gives like small businesses, especially the business that starts up during the COVID … A small platform other than Instagram, ”says Uddin.
He says it’s important to network for people who need connection, support or a mentor.
This year TTL Production was a supplier for approximately 40 events, including small intimate weddings. Kamran Hussain and Fahmida Parvin hired TTL Production for their wedding in June. Hussain says he grew up with Uddin. He trusted the duo to capture their special moments.
“Alhamdulillah, we were able to get everything we need with photography. Tufail and Mahin were actually really cool with our budget, ”says Hussain. “They got around the problem and even helped us out whenever we had questions.”
Hussein says TTL The production shows the growth of the community – from freelancers to a brick and mortar.
“We are still a small community, ”says Hussain. “So if one of us had something like a studio for example and is willing to loan it to other small businesses, that shows you how strong the community is and how far we are going.” each other. “
Uddin says this has been a tough year but has offered new opportunities like traveling to nine states for work.
Mahin says opening a business was worth it. He says people who once doubted him have now changed their minds.
“I hear these same people complimenting ‘okay you’re doing great’. And that’s what keeps me going, ”says Mahin.
TTL Production was unable to provide services during the height of the pandemic due to delayed and canceled marriages. But losing business has given co-owners Tufail Uddin and Mohtashim Mahin a chance to create their own safe space to work, thrive, and use their creative talents to make money.
What seemed like an end has become a new beginning.