If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what about a thousand cameras taking the same picture? Ad nauseum much? The Islamabad network on Facebook is brimming with amateur photography — from crisp, high resolution pictures of ants, leaves, random foliage to expressionless faces — you name it and the page has it.
This is what happens when the youth starts trading pocket money for Digital Single-Lens Reflex cameras (or DSLRs). According to urban legend, the owner of this expensive artefact is instantly promoted to the next level of cool. There seems to be no need to waste time actually developing some skills and experience in the field of photography.
No longer restricted to a small and uncool camera, the one in possession of a bulky DSLR at a party is sure to get nothing but endless posing. People can tell just by looking at the camera that the shots will turn out great. Larger image sensors, efficient optical viewfinders and high quality lenses play an instrumental role in producing the sort of pictures everybody is proud to tag themselves in.
Fatimah Haroon (who also goes by her moniker, Fato), 17, is a photography savant who doesn’t think Islamabad’s newfound passion for cameras and photography is a bad thing. “Even if people treat their DSLR like a status symbol, it still encourages them to get into photography.”
Still, Fato means serious business and her approach is all about capturing those elusive moments that go as quickly as they come. Following the footsteps of such phenomenal successes on the social network, aspiring DSLR-toting photographers have started taking ‘artistic’ pictures — sometimes of unknown bugs dangling off stems. It may look nice and super detailed — but a clear view of the insect’s exoskeleton is not exactly what we are looking for, hence the question arises: Where is the drama?
“I’m after something else,” says Fato seated comfortably on a large leather sofa. “While people out there are taking pictures of other people posing, I’m taking pictures of cake falling on the floor. I don’t want the same old faces pouting in front of the mirror, I want to capture a moment, I want to capture a story — what’s going on behind every picture.”
Fatography — the eponymous title of Fato’s popular Facebook group (soon-to-be company) displays her intense focus on narration and a keen eye on story-telling. She has a way of emphasising both character and circumstance in one shot; a talent that is well beyond her age. Fatima — who has been clicking since she was 16 — states that her early days as a photographer weren’t easy.
“I started out with a cell phone camera and eventually made by way up to a Canon 100D.” But her camera was nothing like the high-tech machines her peers are buying. “You had to work really hard because the camera was so-so. That’s when you have to rely on your mind, body and eye. It’s never entirely about the camera,” says Fato who feels that droves of kids asking their parents to buy them the super-effective Canon 5D and 7D DSLR models, renders raw talent totally obsolete.
“I worked to get my Canon 500D. It was something I wanted to get for myself— my own merit. I got hired for weddings and people, especially women, loved the way I captured the ‘feel’ of the event and the stories my pictures were telling. Also, they felt secure with me; there aren’t many female photographers like me roaming around,” said Fato.
Fato is a living proof that talent, regardless of age or gender, is not something you can buy with a DSLR. For her, photography is more than just a trend— it’s her passion. She is inseparable from the camera and wants her “photographs to speak louder than words”.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.