The notepad: Khaula Jamil

The exceptional photographer behind Humans Of Karachi, Khaula Jamil, jots down the things that inspire her photography

February 19, 2017
PHOTO: Khaula Jamil

The exceptional photographer behind Humans Of Karachi, Khaula Jamil, jots down the things that inspire her photography


Sometimes when I am talking to someone, I immediately start thinking about it in visuals. At times it feels like a movie of what they are saying runs through my head. People and conversations are some of my greatest inspirations. Whether it is friends, family or strangers on the streets of Karachi, conversations are very important to me.


When you are a storyteller, it is inevitable that there will be an inner hunger to travel to every corner of the earth, observing people, different cultures and their histories. Ever since I got into photography seriously, I have tried to make it a point to visit at least one new place each year.


Today, people know me as ‘that Humans of Karachi girl’. I happily embrace that title (even though it is a bit embarrassing at times). Karachi has always somehow been the centre of my projects, whether it is a passion project or  a commissioned assignment. This city and the energy I feel here, has been key in all my works.


Sometimes I don’t want to lug around a heavy camera and still really want to take photographs. Sometimes you can totally miss a moment or disrupt a really crucial and beautiful scene if you pull out a huge camera, but with a nifty iPhone, you can take excellent quality pictures really quickly. It has inspired me to go way further in my street photography than I would have ever gone with my SLR.

Art/Design and Film

Be it a fantastic commercial, a good advertising print campaign, a good film or art hanging on walls, this is something I am constantly looking at for inspiration. I actively visit galleries and museums in various countries, attend talks and watch short films. I thoroughly enjoy it — you never know where your next idea may come from.

Written material

Not necessarily books, but having been a literature student, a good poem, prose, haiku, thought or reflection can go a long way with me. Even new words like those in the Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows makes me dive into a different world where I visualise what I am reading.


Whether it is looking at the work of masters like Robert Frank or William Klien, reading about when Karachi was once called Kolachi, visiting Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, immersing myself in stories from the Holocaust while in Berlin or the Bosnian War when I’m in Sarajevo, the past inspires me to no end. So much of my work has to do with nostalgia and memories. It is what brings a certain richness and texture to my thought process.


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