Faustin Elmer Chaudhry, or Chacha Chaudhry as he was popularly known, passed away on his 104th birthday on Friday. The iconic photo-journalist was considered the grandfather of photo-journalism in Pakistan. His images documented some of Pakistan’s key historic moments. He was the father of late war hero Cecil Chaudhry.
Chaudhry was born in Saharanpur in India to a Rajput family. His family moved to Jhelum where he studied at the Mission High School, Dalwal. Later, he studied at Forman Christian College in Lahore.
While teaching science at St Anthony’s High School, Chaudhry started freelancing as a photographer. This was at a time when film was not readily available.
Chaudhry launched his career as a journalist at The Civil and Military Gazette in 1935. He freelanced with several periodicals and newspapers before being hired in 1949 by Mian Iftikharuddin at The Pakistan Times.
He would remain there till the late 1970’s. At The Pakistan Times, he worked under Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mazhar Ali Khan and KM Asaf.
Mazhar Zaidi, who is working on a documentary on Chaudhry, FE Chaudhry’s Pakistan, explains that he had seen Pakistan grow and his photographs told the story of a nation.
“His approach was simple and his pictures had depth,” explained Zaidi. “Through his art, he was able to show the changing face of politics in the country. He had seen how Pakistan had grown and those images catalogue our history.”
His work documented Lahore through the 1930’s into pictures of Partition and several unique images of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. His work in the 1950’s captured the shift towards Islamisation. His photographs captured the movement against General Ayub Khan.
Chaudhry also took the last photograph of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, before his execution.
National College of Arts Professor Nadeem Omer, said Chaudhary had kept all of his photographs along with their negatives but they had not been catalogued. He said Chaudhry had donated these to the NCA archives where they had been preserved.
“Photographers during those times were tinkermen who used innovations to improve their photography,” said Omer. “His work has not been celebrated enough.”
Mashal Chaudhry, the photographer’s granddaughter, said he had no health problems and simply died of old age. She said the death of his son, Cecil, had taken a toll on Chaudhry.
FE Chaudhary was awarded several state awards, including the Tamgha-i-Khidmat and Pride of Performance.
The Funeral of FE Chaudhry will be held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Sunday at 1 pm.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2013.
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