Photographer hopes to bridge Pakistan-US cultural divide

An exclusive interview of US photographer Tom Norris

Wafi Muhammed September 12, 2016
Photography was an evolution of my love for art and it serves my needs as a creative person who likes to explore and meet different people. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Tom Norris, an American portrait photographer has started a project which seeks to overcome the stereotypes generated about the people of Pakistan and the US.

The portraits of common people of America intend to illustrate a strong message calling people towards humanism and love.

I grew up being an artist drawing pictures and paintings, he said, while talking to The Express Tribune at at Nomad Art Gallery.

Photography was an evolution of my love for art and it serves my needs as a creative person who likes to explore and meet different people.

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He, while describing his passion for photography, said “I went to school for graphic design and through websites I learned the use of lights and with experience I also got my first job at a college as a photographer.”

When asked about his most memorable photograph, Tom said there was no one specific photograph that stood out. “I am always critical. And I always look at the pictures trying to figure out how to do better,” he said.

My project “Show Humanity” seeks to help people see each other on a human level, Tom says.

When asked about how people of the US responded to his project, he smiled, and said a lot of people were very supportive, while some did not really understand, and were very afraid for me [when I told them about my intention to go to Pakistan].

“It’s my first time here and I did not really know what to expect but my first thought that it would all be desert surrounded by phoebes was wrong. It’s completely different, a much more complex and diverse society,” Tom said.

He, while describing his inspiration to run this project, said “I wanted to use my photography in a way that could do good, and this opportunity came up through my friend Danish, who lives here.”

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We went to Changla Gali, and also visited several places in Rawalpindi. We took portraits of a motorcycle taxi service called Qinqi. We talked to the drivers and they were happy taking their portraits taken and even gave us a ride for free. My first experience went good I was impressed to see people welcoming to a complete stranger, the photographer said.

“It’s hard for me to communicate here. People were very supportive but it gets tough for me to explain to them my project.”

When asked, how he makes people feel relaxed in front of the camera, Tom said, “it’s challenging here because people are more conservative.”

While talking about the effectiveness of photoshop, he said it was a tool but I would not rely on it.

It is colourful and you can do a lot with it, but it will never look as good as something you capture using a camera.

When asked about what advice he would like to give to the youth pursuing photography Tom said, “Don’t spend a lot of money trying to buy [expensive] gear. Go out and practice and use what you have. There is still a lot of gear I wish I could buy but I go out and use what I have.”

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“Equipment can make your images better but it’s not going to make you have a better eye to capture things,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2016.


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