Archive for the ‘Ramblings of an artist’ Category

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” This was said by Samuel Johnson in 1775 and holds true even today.
I thought of this quotation and Samuel Johnson when I read a comment by one of friends posted a question on his page,” Can anyone who does not believe in Khatam e Nabuwat (belief in finality of prophethood) or is against military or judiciary be patriotic?”
This type of emotionalism being displayed on social media even by our mature educated class is disappointing and reflects an intellectual confusion or superficial religiosity and unshaken belief in one’s piety and a divine sanction to judge others. This has become a source of so many social conflicts ultimately ending in use of abusive, filthy language and bitterness of relations among friends and even relatives.
One thing must be clear that no one has the authority to judge other’s faith. This would be done only by the God on the day of judgment and not by us, the mortals here on Facebook/Google pages. No Muslim is against prophet and non-Muslims are obviously not expected to believe in this concept.
Moreover, religious and sectarian affiliations should not be equated with patriotism. There are millions of non-Muslims in our country and they are as loyal to Pakistan as we the Muslims claims to be. Stoking religious differences to spread hatreds and suspicions is a dangerous game to play. An attitude of ‘Holier than thou’ is the root cause religious and sectarian bigotry.
Similarly, no one is against, military or judiciary. They are our brothers/sisters. Every family has members working in military, judiciary and in fact in so many other civilian departments. Being critical of someone in a department should not be taken as a comment against the whole department or as a final proof of being anti-state and thus worthy of being lynched on social media. This type of argument is either too naïve or thrown with some ulterior motive.
Every section of society has good or bad people. Like politicians, some military or judiciary officers showed conduct less than ideal and at times behaved in a way unbecoming of their statuses. In fact, our history is replete with tragic blunders where political class, military or judiciary adopted policies which, though touted as a piece of ultimate wisdom at the time; finally proved to be wrong and went against the national interests playing havoc with very foundations of the country.
We should be aware of such language as this strategy to spread suspicions and hatred against others by throwing subtle hints and innuendoes about faith, patriotism or loyalty about a section of society is always done with some sinister motive and promote fissiparous trends with potential of breaking threads of our social fabric.
Many of our friends on social media are young and probably don’t know that the first blame of being an Indian agent and so an anti-state, was labelled on Fatima Jinnah (Sister of founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah) when she decided to contest election against the military dictator, Major General ® Ayub Khan (then president of Pakistan).
His son Captain ® Gauhar Ayub led a procession in Karachi where a bitch was dragged publicly in the procession and that bitch was labelled as traitor Fatima Jinnah.

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Puffing at a cigarette dangling from his thin lips, the man appeared to crawl on his rickety legs on the pavement; threading his path through the people. A swarthy complexion with worried look on his wrinkly face, few wisps of hair falling from sides of a bald shiny pate, belly bulging over the belt of trousers, holding a bag in one hand while the other arm was swaying with an irregular rhythm. He seemed to be inching towards the other side of horizon.
It was a cloudy morning in early April, with a nip in the air when I spotted this man while going on towards my job.
For a flash of second, the look of this mysterious man gripped my attention. Oblivious of his surroundings he seemed to be move toward where ever he was supposed to be. His weather-beaten appearance suggested a life spent in unending misery, unable to indulge in any luxury. After spending a whole day in some drab job, he would go back, exhausted, maybe indulge in some sex to relieve his daily fatigue and then drop on the bed for a fitful sleep in order to rise again early next morning for another insipid day of his life.
For some unknown reason, he seemed to be the very anthesis of all those notions about nobility of human race and of any higher purpose of life.
On looking at other faces shuffling along the road, it appeared that everyone had the same anxious look of carrying the cross of their apparently meaningless existence.
In that moment it seemed the whole humanity is nothing but a farce and all those lectures of morality, religion and philosophy are nothing but attempts to embellish for what is a pure animal instinct to survive and procreate; at least for billions of people struggling to keep them afloat above the line of poverty.
Then suddenly I realized that I myself was doing the same thing and for them I too, might appear like another insignificant creature on the surface of this earth. Horrified, I tried to look away but the feeling was too strong and for some quite some time, I felt a creep, an eerie chill going down the spine.
A moment of translucency when everything appears absurd. All the sermons of moralists when they preach of some grand design in this universe seemed gibberish, a nonsense talk of those who themselves are as ignorant of this universe as their followers are. They just keep on repeating what they heard from someone else like them.
Was it a moment of truth?
It is a typical scene of a metropolis, a mass of homo sapiens on a daily routine of trudging along to earn two square meals of a day, by all means fair and foul; to get the maximum in the shortest possible time, cheating, fighting, deceiving and gnawing at each other’s in this rate race. All doing the same things throughout their life, without knowing why.
Generations have perished after living the same termite life while many more would come to follow the same path, groping along in darkness from cradle to crater; ultimately stepping out of the way for the next generation of their species to do the same in their own life.
Is there really a sense in this drama of life or all these talks of a higher spiritual realm are mere attempts to glorify this humdrum existence. Despite all those religions, philosophy, art and science, the fact remains that primarily we live by physical instincts like all animals and by doing so rapidly destroying our own resources, destroying all other species while at the same time making this earth inhabitable for our own survival. Billions are perishing due to hunger, disease and natural calamities while a tiny minority wallowing in pure physical pleasures.
Artistic and aesthetic pursuits seem a luxury of lucky few who have spare time and extra money to afford. For the rest of human race, life is a continuous drudgery sprinkled with isolated moments of sensual experiences.
Is there really a method in this madness? Was it a moment of truth?
Did the Jean-Paul Sartre had the same experience when he said “Man is a useless passion. It is meaningless that we live and it is meaningless that we die.”

Street photography is to capture the life around us in all its details. Sometimes the details might be unpleasant harsh facts of life, highlighting the marginalized sections of society, something on which people might not like to talk about. What should be the role of an artist? To hide, or to project a serious social or cultural issue. Exposure might be against something which a particular community does not want to accept publicly.
The exposure of such issues may bring serious criticism.
What should be the approach of an artist in documentary photography? To always strive to project a positive rosy picture or to use the art faithfully even if brings out unpalatable truths?”

The approach of a documentary photographer should be truthful no matter the consequences,otherwise it ends up being fiction. This is my opinion to your question 🙂
Edit: I thought the question was about documentary photographers… As a normal photographer you can do whatever you want, I suppose.

Photographers do what they do for their own unique reasons, and what will be right for one person will be wrong for another. In my own photos, I tell the truth, but I don’t particularly seek out the ugly or difficult side of the truth. Others will feel compelled to explore that dimension of the world.

My personal mantra is that the number one rule in art is that there are no rules. You make them up as you go or you follow established paths and add something new to them. Any one piece of art will never please or inspire everyone and may even upset some. That is the nature of art and creativity. I’ve had people tell me my drawings are beautiful and others tell me the same drawing is disgusting. All in the eye of the beholder, I suppose but we should let their eyes see what they will

I think that each photographer, before developing an approach, should ask himself what he wants to represent and for what purpose. I’m not a professional, just an enthusiast, but I think that for documentary photography there is no choice: to represent reality, to tell the truth. Truth is the ultimate goal of every single shot.
It is in the tale of the reality that every single photographer chooses his personal approach: one can represent the good moments of life in a cheerful and lively way or in a critical way; one can represent unpleasant realities with a detached look, as a witness, or with hope in the lenses or underlining the drama of the moment and so on.
The approach, the perspective, is what makes each photographer unique and even before that is what distinguishes those who simply take photos from those who are photographers.
But the purpose is indisputable: to tell the truth, always 🙂
I would think being a documentary photographer is different than artist. The documentary photographer photographs what is. The artist tries to use their vision to create an idea or capture a mood.

The artist might use monochrome, or try to capture shadows or be a a spot they want someone to walk through. There is a style to it that documentary work will likely be different.

Of course I am also a Landscape photographer so I might be way off the mark.

I use street photography as an active exploration tool. Sometimes that means wandering and shooting what I come across. Sometimes I am actively seeking images or promoting a cause through shooting an event. Either way, I let observation lead me to whatever is happening on the street. Most of the time I take the shot and decide later whether to share it through social media. There have been times where a scene is gruesome and I have chosen not to capture. I generally avoid capturing homeless people. I’ve also seen some amazing work where the photographer focuses on street life in LA.

I don’t claim to have a right or wrong answer. Years ago, I read countless threads on the philosophy of street photography. Each photographer has to find their balance point. I’m glad the question is still being asked

REPLY

Continuous stress is the worst curse of cosmopolitan city life in modern age of capitalism. Something from which people seem unable to disconnect. Even while enjoying vacations in solitude of nature, they are unable to ‘let go’,  unable to set aside things like job stress, professional targets, productivity, and calculations of profit and loss and organisational intrigues.

People are commonly seen in parks, restaurants, airports and hospitals;  stressed faces with taut muscles, buried deep in their laptops or cell phones; checking work mail, being accessible to others at a distance while oblivious of their surroundings.

As a result, they are unable to relax and fully appreciate the precious fleeting moments and what might be the most beautiful and  rewarding life experiences.

Can art play a relaxing role,  soothing injured, stretched nerves?

If so, how?

Susan Sontag has an answer. In one of her article on photography, she mentioned:

“Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.”

I agree with this apt comment. In fact the same can be claimed for all types of art. However the problem is, what to do for people for whom art itself becomes another rat race to excel. Another tension, another cause of anxiety for a workaholic. New reasons to be jealous, to fret over missed opportunities, and another set of unending targets.

Art becomes another cross to carry, a proverbial straw on the already over burdened back.

Photography is an art. People use it for various purposes; to capture beauty around us, to express our own emotions some times in abstract and surrealistic styles. For others it is a tool to document culture and life style of a society.

Eric Kim, one of the famous street photographer and himself a student of sociology has compared photography with study of sociology with camera as a research too. A powerful medium to record history, rituals, festivals and important social issues of the time.

Making worthwhile cultural photography is not as simple as it seems. It requires curiosity to see what is significant around us and a thoughtful selection of what needs to be captured.

In this short presentation I would focus on wall posters and graffiti as an elements of photographic composition.  When used intelligently they blend with an artist’s work and when so combined; often make an interesting social statement.

With examples from my own work, I intend to show that how these can add to the overall impact of a picture. All of the pictures in this presentation are candid street shot taken from Lahore and Rawalpindi with an aim to present urban culture. Life in a cosmopolitan city, has an attraction that one can remain faceless amidst a vast ocean of people, a luxury denied to those from villages and small towns.

A picture is claimed to be worth 1000 words. Ideally it should speak for itself without help of additional description but in this presentation I would need to step in on some points for a bit of explanations.

First picture is about an artist doing wall painting in a drive to beautify the city. The picture shows blending of the artist with her art.

At times these graffiti can be used to create an interesting and even funny situations,

 

 

At times these graffiti can serve as an interesting background for a particular seen, either augmenting or interesting contrast with it and highlighting the intent of an artist.

If one has an eye, one can use them to augment a particular emotional element in a picture, thus emphasizing a festive or gloomy mood or even adding a touch of romance to the scene.

 

Sometimes these posters, paintings have apparently no connection with the scene but a carefully taken angle gives them a meaning as if they belong to the scene.

Like this beauty parlor on the pavement,

or the Kahkashan beauty parlor

Photography is a powerful tool to convey a social message, to start or support a reform movement and also to deliver a biting satire if needed.

 

 

 

This is the picture on which I received the maximum Subhan Allah, Mashal Allah and Jazak Alla. People that that though belatedly, at least I have become a pious Muslims. Better late than never.

This picture was taken on Independence day of Pakistan, when MML was formally launched. I posted it as a documentary evidence of an important change but had to face various objections from different quarters. One of them was that I had tried to glamorize Hafiz Saeed, giving him a larger than life stature; overpowering and dominating law enforcing agencies.

Although this was not my intention,  but that fact is that in our society some people are really more equal than others.

A time to reflect and ponder, what was the dream and what has been the outcome!

 

Introversion

Posted: October 1, 2017 in Ramblings of an artist

Although often overlapping, introversion and shyness are not the same thing. Although I am very much an introvert, I am not shy in the least.

Both traits are often misunderstood, sometimes even shunned, by those who do not possess them, but in truth both culminate in a degree of heightened sensitivity.

Although such sensitivity may be a handicap in some aspects of life in a society where all too often those who scream the loudest receive the most attention, and those who socialize well are admired even if lacking in other ways; it can also be immensely rewarding when allowed to flourish. The sensitive person may be more easily hurt, but he or she also may perceive beauty and depths of feeling beyond the ordinary.

Art is a pursuit well suited for introverts and shy people. It is a form of asynchronous exchange of emotions, where one may evolve relationships with his or her audience that are at once both intimate and anonymous.

Solitude of the night

Posted: September 1, 2017 in Ramblings of an artist

Blindfolded

It is often mentioned that a photograph is worth 1000 words. Probably its so but there are moments for which it doesn’t s not seem a suitable medium for expression.

In moments like these, one likes to sit back in a calm quite room reflecting on the inner turmoil waiting for the inner and outer circumstances converge emotionally, which is not always the case; and when it does so it might be in ways indescribable by any means of expression.

It is almost midnight at my native town. Whole family gathered for Eid celebration is excited for tomorrow’s festivities and children, in excitement have refused to sleep. Stillness of the night and its loneliness has stirred a storm of memories. Of times never to return again and of people—-without whom life seemed impossible once— never to be seen again.

An inner restlessness, realizing a deep void within the soul and solitude of the midnight is something which is impossible to convey. Unable to sleep, tossing in the bed, memories rushing in like torrents. Nostalgia of the past normally suppressed by professional requirements in cosmopolitan urban life, turns in to an anguish, a vast sense of irremediable loss.

The camera seemed more a burden than a companion for much of it and the words seem the only crutches for support. It may still be impossible to convey but at least it would be a source of catharsis and a means to analyse the chaotic noise in my mind.

Bewildered and haunted through flashes of memories that relive themselves
I sit and ponder and look into the sky
there is no pain greater than been lost in SELF
battling with a STRONG shadow called SADNESS
she stalks and haunts and bring you moments of agony
she comes along with her sister ANGUISH
and they taunt you,
galvanizing and pinpointing your mind to the PAST you left behind

(Ovi-Odiete)