Apart from the much needed preservation, one way to guarantee the province’s historical sites can be appreciated for all times to come is by photographing them. That is exactly how veteran photographer Gulshan Azeez has been spending some of his time lately.
Speaking to The Express Tribune on Tuesday, Azeez said photography was a hobby that later turned into a profession. Now he has made it his mission to preserve history.
“For a province so rich with archaeological sites and cultural heritage, extra effort should have been taken to preserve it,” said Azeez, adding K-P’s historical architecture is definitely one to capture through the lens.
Azeez’s photographs are as diverse as K-P itself. They include shots of ancient Buddhist era stupas and other sites such as the lush green valleys of Swat and barren hills of Khyber Agency. There are shots of the unique culture of Kalash Valley and archaeological sites of the Gandhara civilisation. The photos illustrate the dizzying changes in life, style and the cultures and conditions of the sites.
“Some of the sites have nearly vanished and will only be left in photographs,” said the photographer. He pointed out that some of the clicks capture the Khyber Safari train which used to take tourists from Peshawar to Torkham. The historical railway track between the two areas through several tunnels and bridges that are now destroyed due to lack of government interest to protect the rich heritage of the province. Soon it may just vanish from the area.
“Our people love history and archaeology, but pay little attention to go the extra mile and press authorities to start serious work [for preservation].”
There is a large collection of photographs of scenic areas such as Hazara, Khunjrab Pass, Deosai Valley, Swat, Supat Valley, Shandur and Kalash among others.
The photographer has been struggling for the last several years to compile a photography book. However, the lack of resources has left his dreams of publishing his collection unfulfilled.
About the importance of photography in the province, he said neither exhibitions are organised in K-P nor is the artist appreciated. He added the people of the province are too slow to embrace photography as a form of art.
The artist was awarded a photography award by former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and the best photographer award by different national magazines including Photoline for his picture “Cross the River”. A former governor has also awarded him with a gold medal for his work. “It was the love for the historical sites of my country that allows me to take an ordinary camera to capture it,” said Azeez, “These sites are now vanishing fast. A time may come when only these photographs will help people see what they lost.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2015.