Photography: The bigger picture

We find out what it’s like to gain ground in the budding photography<br /> industry in Pakistan


Over the course of time, photography in Pakistan has developed in leaps and bounds. With good quality professional cameras available in the market at relatively affordable prices, the availability of professional photographers has increased.

However, when we look at the market for fashion photography, there are only a handful of notable names such as Guddu Shani, Maram and Aabroo, Nadir Firoz Khan and Ayaz Anis. Given their strong presence, it could be difficult for newcomers to gain ground in the industry. The Express Tribune speaks to budding photographers Adeela Badshah and Muzammil ‘Muzi’ Sufi to find out the challenges they had to face while dipping a toe in the industry and how the dynamic of photography has changed.

Badshah, who is the owner of Pinup, a photography studio, has done a minor in Photography from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS). Following that, she tried her hand at advertising, taught at IVS and worked at a photography agency. “At IVS, I learnt from Tapu Javeri and Amin Jan and later, I joined Jan’s agency 18% grey and that helped me out a lot,” she says. “I was very lucky from the beginning of my career.”

Exploring the fields of advertising and photography agency helped her in making contacts and learning the ropes of the business. “This is an industry where you are very easily cheated, so you have to make sure you don’t leave any loopholes for people to exploit you,” she says.

Badshah was open to all sorts of photography and eventually found fashion to be her niche. “Fashion is more experimental and creative. Product photography for advertising is generic and photography for television commercials is still a male-dominated field,” explains the shutterbug.

With more and more experimental shoots coming out, designers are eager to one-up the competition. To this end, Badshah feels that “it hasn’t been hard convincing designers and editors to go with something super experimental as they want to make a mark.”

Conversely, Sufi, popularly known as Muzi Sufi, feels that designers are not as experimental as a photographer would want them to be. With no formal training in photography, the self-taught photographer shares, “I like telling stories. There are a lot of people who will contact me, but when they hire me, they will want something super generic.”

Does formal education in photography help a photographer? “Of course, it does. You are able to analyse campaigns and see why a shot was taken... what the reasoning behind it was,” says Badshah. You learn to think critically because it is not just about taking beautiful photographs, but also about conceptualising what you are shooting.”

Sufi’s passion for photography developed when she started playing around with the camera. “I take inspiration from literature and try to capture the essence of characters through my photography.” Social media primarily offered a gateway for her ascendance into the limelight. Her first shoot was for make-up artist Natasha Khalid.

“A year ago, I had no idea how to get clients and get them to trust me to do what I wanted to do. It took a while for things to start rolling. Now, I don’t even look at international editorials because they curb my creativity,” she explains. She shares she doesn’t keep tabs on what is going on in the industry and what the designers are doing, and that she doesn’t analyse campaigns.

With fierce competition and a few photography giants dominating the market, it seems that young photographers are slightly struggling to get the kind of shoots they would want to. “The culture is very different around here,” says Badshah. “You get approached more if you are not working for a photography agency since people think you will charge less and price is a major factor.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2014.

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