Arif Mahmood looks for the common man in his new exhibit

Published: February 7, 2013

Arif Mahmood’s exhibition, ‘Philosophy’ at Chawkandi Art Gallery, explores how the common man is taught to believe that he has options in life when he doesn’t really. PHOTO COURTESY CHAWKANDI ART GALLERY

Arif Mahmood’s exhibition, ‘Philosophy’ at Chawkandi Art Gallery, explores how the common man is taught to believe that he has options in life when he doesn’t really. PHOTO COURTESY CHAWKANDI ART GALLERY Arif Mahmood’s exhibition, ‘Philosophy’ at Chawkandi Art Gallery, explores how the common man is taught to believe that he has options in life when he doesn’t really. PHOTO COURTESY CHAWKANDI ART GALLERY Arif Mahmood’s exhibition, ‘Philosophy’ at Chawkandi Art Gallery, explores how the common man is taught to believe that he has options in life when he doesn’t really. PHOTO COURTESY CHAWKANDI ART GALLERY

KARACHI: The search for the quintessential common man and how he juggles his way through seemingly terrible options in life is what defines Arif Mahmood’s latest works.

Mahmood is an eminent street photographer, whose exhibition ‘Philosophy’ is on display at Chawkandi Art Gallery till  February 13. Photographers, models, artists and students filled the halls of the gallery on Tuesday to attend the exhibition’s opening reception.

“My work speaks about man’s struggle to decide on the least worst option in life,” says a very perturbed Mahmood while trying to explain the theme to the audience. “We feel that we have choices. We are told that we have choices. But in reality, we are given a few limited options to chose from.”

“The idea behind the exhibition began developing when I started working at a centre for drug addicts called House of Hope, located near Quaid-e-Azam’s mazar,” he adds. “Conditions in the place are terrible, however, the addicts have no choice but to accept life as it is as they have no where else to go. You might as well cherish the cubicle you must live in.”

Mahmood, who had worked at Pakistan International Airlines for almost 20 years before giving it all up to pursue photography, explained that this particular exhibition was unlike anything he had done before.

The artist’s wife, Aesha Arif, who was curating the show, explained that his work displayed the state of mind he had been in lately. “Arif’s obsession with photographing the common man goes back 25 years when he got his first camera and would go around photographing people on the streets,” she explained. “He was always a very sensitive man and it was in his nature to notice the suffering of the people.”

“I was the one to give his first exhibition 17 to 18 years ago,” explained Zohra Hussain, the director of the gallery. “At that point he was very much into portraits. His work has evolved over time.”

While speaking to The Express Tribune, eminent artist Taimur Suri explained that Mahmood’s work had become much more expressionistic and refined over time. “I think Mahmood’s work speaks about how you can, if you want to, live within limited means and be happy with it,” said Carol, one of Suri’s students. “His photograhphy studies the hidden realities of life,” pitched in another.

Photographer Tapu Javeri, explained that is the most introspective work of Mahmood’s that he had ever seen.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2013.

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