Yasin Osman is a photographer who specializes in evocative images of inner city life. Born and raised in Toronto’s diverse Regent Park neighbourhood, Yasin’s photography captures his community in transition with an honesty and raw beauty that has earned him thousands of followers on Instagram and beyond.
For Yasin however, photography isn’t just a vocation, it’s a vehicle to inspire. In the summer of 2015 he launched a pioneering photography program called #ShootForPeace, created to help underprivileged young people explore art and photography outside of their community. Yasin recently completed a project on the Holy Pilgrimage of Hajj in Saudi Arabia with VICE and is currently working on a photo-essay that focuses solely on his community, Regent Park.
We caught up with the rising photographer to learn about the books that shaped him.
5 Books that Made Me Who I Am
The Kite Runner is definitely the first book I ever read that I could not put down. Initially it was assigned for school and we were given about a month to finish it. I ended up reading the book twice before the due date. The friendship, betrayal and hope in this book is what kept me so engaged. Hassan’s perseverance is always something I admired; he suffered so much but would always keep his head up.
Today I flipped through some of my favourite parts. Amir’s last words to Hassan were so incredibly touching that it made me realize the power of the written word.
Growing up without a father wasn’t as difficult because of the incredible job my mother did. Dealing with it at school wasn’t that bad either since a lot of my friends were in the same situation. I remember in grade school there was one year that half my class was making Mother’s Day cards on Father's Day. Though there were plenty of children in my situation that I could relate to growing up and I had the loving support of my mother, there was always a void that couldn’t be filled. I would find comfort in this book as a child. It was the book that made me feel like it was okay to not only accept my reality but to not be afraid to talk about it.
As a child my mom would get me to read the newspaper regularly. After reading a few articles, I’d inevitably go straight for the comics. Calvin and Hobbes was always my favourite, so when I found out the comics were compiled into books I was thrilled and would save up my money to buy them. I feel like I owe a lot to this series. When I was 12, after my grade six graduation, I visited Somalia with my mom. After only a month I was assimilating very quickly and felt my English slowly fading away. The only reading material I had with me at the time was Calvin and Hobbes. I would read it everyday before I went to sleep, which may have saved me from forgetting English.
I've often heard small narrations from Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) life but I’ve never had the opportunity to read about the history of Islam, his biography, and how the religion of Islam was originally spread. Known as one of the most accurate representations of The Prophet’s life, this book helped me understand not only who he was but what he did.
This book is where I’ve gone to for answers for the last seven years of my life. I wanted to learn about my religion and thought this should be the first book I look to. There’s a misconception that religious text is often dull and boring, but this book definitely proves otherwise. The Qur’an includes stories of the prophets including Jesus and Abraham as well as advice on how to live one’s life. If there’s any book that shaped my life, it’s this.
Next On My Reading List
All photos by Yasin Osman.